Jeff Lorber Fusion: Step It Up

The latest in a series of top-notch recordings from the reactivated fusion unit is funkier than you think.

Jeff Lorber Fusion

Step It Up

Label: Concord
US Release Date: 2015-09-25
UK Release Date: 2015-10-09

Jeff Lorber’s name is synonymous with jazz fusion and first-rate recordings, so it’s no surprise that this latest entry in a line of collaborations with bassist Jimmy Haslip crosses the finish line of success from its first notes with ace compositions and playing that is commensurate with the reputation of both of the main players and the many who join them here. Also no surprise? Lorber and Haslip continue their R&B obsession, working it into virtually every nook and quarter beat, but that’s no problem at all.

The movement-oriented rhythms and melodies of pieces such as “Up On This”, “Fire Spirit” (an early nomination for best track on the album) and “Deep Green” are hard to beat but the interplay heard on those tracks and others, including “Soul Party” and “Mustang”. Of course, no jazz outing is complete without a series of players who can bring the music to life and these two have a contacts list that has allowed them to assemble some, shall we say, serious help: Robben Ford and Bob Mintzer, pals from Haslip’s time with the Yellowjackets appear, as do drummers Ash Soan, Gary Novak and Vinnie Colaiuta; saxophonist Gary Meek and guitarists Michael Thompson and Paul Jackson Jr. also join in and the omnipresent Lenny Castro pops in.

For newcomers thrown off by the word fusion in the collective’s moniker, those expecting something closer to Mahavishnu Orchestra than Steely Dan, let the record(s) show that the fusion in question here is jazz, funk, R&B, and soul, and not just the standard jazz and rock blend that most of us have come to expect when hearing the F-word. But this isn’t total revivalist stuff either; this is music crated in the now, stuff that is as prescient now as it was back in ’82 when Lorber initially left behind the Fusion tag.

If neither the band nor its records, including the savory Wizard Island, never received the kind of acclaim they deserved in that initial run, the more recent outings have yielded a greater amount of respect. Whatever the reasons—that the audience has caught up, that Lorber is writing better than before, or that critics are just happy to have such seasoned players and writers around—there can be no mistake that the praise is both deserved and real.

The last Fusion album, 2013’s Hacienda was another career highlight and the arrival of this record so close can only be a sign that Lorber and friends are a kind of high that we can only hope they’ll be riding high for some time to come. It’s great to hear albums such as this that are smart, intimate and filled with players keen to work their way through a range of styles that are blended seamlessly such that we don’t know what it is and know only that we like it.

Here’s to many more collaborations between Lorber, Haslip and their merry band of jazz makers, who keep us well supplied in effortless-sounding records such as this one and the many that have come before. Step It Up is not to be missed.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.