Release Date: 01 JUN 2010

Fusion is re-emerging as a popular genre in the instrumental music market. In fact, many artists are “going back to basics” and rediscovering their musical roots and influences. Artists like Jeff Lorber and Chieli Minucci are bringing back fusion while saxophonist Mindi Abair has released an R&B/Motown inspired album.

These artists are moving away from the overly produced, synth dominant smooth jazz style and rediscovering their roots. It’s not out of place to say that many smooth jazz artists have come full circle, trading in midi sounds for more traditional and acoustic instruments. Hopefully, sequenced drums and horn sections will continue down the path of extinction as live musicians once more begin their way back into recording studios and onto the albums of their peers.

For those unfamiliar with the various genres of instrumental music, fusion is a style that developed in the 60s and 70s, and was made popular by groups such as Weather Report and Return to Forever. It is a combination the improvisation and somewhat enhanced instrumentation of jazz with rock, R&B, and funk styles, implementing more electronic sounds than most of the music that came before. In fact, the literal definition of fusion is “the process or result of joining two or more things together to form a single entity”. So, by definition, most musical styles today are “fusion”.

By the late 70’s, Jeff Lorber Fusion, originally from Portland, Oregon, had begun its expanse into national and international markets. After a brief period as a solo artist and producer, Lorber has returned to the style that launched his career.

Now is the Time, Jeff Lorber’s latest release signifies his return to fusion. The title of the album is not the title of a song as one would assume, but rather a statement of the musical shift the album takes to something a little “jazzier… exciting…”

Many of the songs on the album are reinventions of the old Jeff Lorber Fusion material. His reason for covering his own songs is because “… people seem to be interested in hearing that again. They’re ready to hear musicians who can really play, really stretch the envelope with their technique, with their songwriting, and with harmonic structure.” Several artists have been redoing their catalog; even mainstream artists like Jewel are doing it. Many artists look forward to the opportunity to rerecord their pieces, and in the case of Jeff Lorber, with three decades of improvement by both the musicians and technology. The pieces are recreated in a way that stimulates the aural senses and intellect of listeners. Some of the updated songs on the album include Black Ice, the 7/4 piece Chinese Medicinal Herbs, and my personal favorite, Water Sign. Lorber also covers Wayne Shorter’s “Mysterious Traveler.”

This album features a selection of exciting melodies, both instrumental and vocal, and showcases many great artists. On Now is the Time, Lorber collaborates with guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonist Eric Marienthal, and rhythm secion players Vinnie Colaiuta, Jimmy Haslip, Alex Al, and Lenny Castro, and Dave Weckl. The Blood, Sweat and Tears horn section also appears on numerous tracks.

Now is the Time, is not the typical aggressive, in your face fusion typically associated with the genre. Instead, it is more laid back and easier for listeners to enjoy. The instrumentation on the album is fairly simple – it is easy to identify each of the sounds (instruments) on the record, and it is far more enjoyable to hear. The arrangements are clear and comprehensible because they are not buried by strings and synthesizers. Over all, any listener looking for something a little more edgy or musically interesting is sure to enjoy Jeff Lorber’s Now is the Time.

Get the album Now Is the Time on Amazon

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Published by Shannon Kennedy

Shannon Kennedy is a vocalist and saxophonist living in Southern California. She is author of "The Album Checklist" and the founder of Teen Jazz. She has been contributing articles to music magaizines and websites since 2004.