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Release Date:
June 1, 2010

Reviewed by:
Woody Wilkins

Keyboardist and composer Jeff Lorber rounds up some contemporary jazz all-stars for Now Is the Time, a hybrid of smooth jazz and fusion.

Jeff Lorber Fusion began in the 1970s, working clubs in Portland, Oregon, before expanding to national prominence. After a few years, he dropped “Fusion” from the name, and later took a break from recording his own material, opting to do session work and produce other artists. Now, he returns to familiar territory. He’s got a talented and diverse supporting cast that includes Paul Jackson Jr., Randy Brecker, Jimmy Haslip, Vinnie Colaiuta, Eric Marienthal, Alex Al, Lil’ John Roberts, Lenny Castro and the Blood, Sweat & Tears horn section.

“Rain Dance / Wanna Fly” is a cool, crossover selection that features Irene Bouza as lead vocalist. Most of the names mentioned above appear on this track. Brecker solos on flugelhorn. “Pixel” is an upbeat dance tune the features the horns. Marienthal plays alto sax, and Haslip’s bass line gives a slight touch of funk. Colaiuta and Jackson complete the lineup. “Sugar Free” is the kind of song that, a decade or so ago, would have been out of place on an otherwise all-instrumental album -- a song whose only purpose was to increase the limited odds of crossover appeal. Here, however, it’s a better fit because it does not seem forced, and the overall sound of the album is consistent. Bouza is lead vocalist. “”Mysterious Traveller,” composed by Wayne Shorter, serves as a reminder of why “fusion” is part of Lorber’s calling card. Haslip doubles on bass and percussion, where he is joined by Jimmy Branly. Michael Thompson plugs in a wah-wah effect on his guitar. Marienthal solos on soprano sax. Dave Weckl takes the drum chair for “Chinese Medicinal Herbs." Larry Koonse, Tom Timko and Steve Jankowski join the ensemble on guitar, flute and flugelhorn, respectively. Lorber leads on piano. Different combinations of paired instruments -- piano and flugelhorn or guitar and sax, for example -- perform the melody in unison. Koonse and Lorber also solo.

Now Is the Time revisits several songs from Lorber’s playbook. While recapturing the sound made by Jeff Lorber Fusion during his early career as a leader, the collection also inputs some of what he’s learned over the last 30 years. In short, the new release is Jeff Lorber Fusion after the aging process.