Jeff Lorber – Philly Style (2003)

FrontCover1.jpgJeffrey H. Lorber (born November 4, 1952) is an American keyboardist, composer, and record producer. After six previous nominations, Lorber won his first Grammy Award on Jan. 28, 2018 for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for Prototype by his band The Jeff Lorber Fusion.

Many of his songs have appeared on The Weather Channel’s Local on the 8s segments and on the channel’s compilation albums, The Weather Channel Presents: The Best of Smooth Jazz and The Weather Channel Presents: Smooth Jazz II. He was nominated for a Grammy Award for his album He Had a Hat (Blue Note, 2007) (by wikipedia)

The pretzel on the cover of Jeff Lorber’s Philly Style (Narada) isn’t the only tasty thing about the album. Renowned keyboardist-producer and Philly native Lorber teamed with producer Steven Dubin, also a Philly native, and together they paid tribute to their shared hometown’s distinguished musical tradition by serving up a hefty helping of funky, groove-driven, smooth-jazz tunes.

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Philly Style opens with the rollicking “Under Wraps,” then moves on to “Gigabyte,” which grooves along merrily with bassist Alex Al and drummer John Roberts setting the groove, Lorber’s keyboards gamboling on top, and a horn section shading it all. “Uncle Darrow’s” achieves a retro feel, courtesy of a horn section comprising saxophonist Gary Meek and trumpeter Ron King, while husky-voiced vocalist Naila croons on the chorus of Lorber’s fusion-esque take on Goodie Mob’s hip-hop hit “Soul Food,” and Meeks’ sax flutters gracefully around Lorber’s elegant piano on the atmospheric ballad “When She Smiles.” This is a fun, well-performed collection that will give Lorber fans plenty to munch on. (by Lucy Tauss)

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The soul-jazz minded keyboardist has been a legendary pop-fusion and smooth-jazz artist for several decades, and producer Steven Dubin had been a huge smooth-jazz force for several years (working with Peter White, Richard Elliot and Najee). The two Philadelphia natives never crossed paths (despite having gone to the same high school and played the same clubs), however, until Lorber hired him to work on his album Kickin’ It. This disc continues the fun, feisty and funky retro-soul vibe of that disc in an even fuller celebration of their Phillyness. Lorber is so well known for his old school Rhodes textures (which were “new school” when he first did them in the 70s) that it’s nice to hear so much classy acoustic piano here, as on the seductive, horn drenched opening track “Under Wraps.” Lorber uses the Rhodes as an underpinning harmony, but his ivory soloing is what makes the tune shimmer.

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The hooky title track collaboration with Elliot offers the same type of vibe, with brass and piano soloing galore before a break in the action, where Lorber turns fully to his Rhodes mastery, punching along with the horns. He keeps the Rhodes-sax duetting with rising horns process going on the well titled “Soul Food,” which features vocalist Naila. “Laissez Faire” is all laid back cool, as is the mystical acoustic piano ballad “When She Smiles,” while the centerpiece jam “Uncle Darrow’s” captures the classic Rhodes centered Crusaders flavor with a crisp horn-harmony-duality provided by Gary Meek (sax) and Ron King (trumpet). It’s kind of hard to imagine that any Jeff Lorber disc isn’t truly Philly-styled, but it’s nice to see he’s finally acknowledging that influence more directly. (by Jonathan Widran)

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Personnel:
Alex Al (bass)
Lenny Castro (percussion)
Steve Dubin (keyboards, drum programming)
Richard Elliot (saxophone)
Jerry Hey (flugelhorn)
Dan Higgins (saxophone)
Nelson Jackson (keyboards)
Ron King (flugelhorn, trumpet)
Jeff Lorber (keyboards. synthesizer, wurlitzer)
Tony Maiden (guitar)
Gary Meek (saxophone)
Naila (vocals)
Robbie Nevil (keyboards)
William Frank “Bill” Reichenbach Jr. (trombone)

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Tracklist:
01. Under Wraps (Dubin/Lorber) 4.57
02. Gigabyte (Dubin/Lorber) 3.56
03. Regardless Of (Dubin/Jackson/Lorber/Porter) 4.28
04. Philly Style (Dubin/Elliot/Lorber) 4.08
05. Soul Food (Bennett/Brown/Burton/Gipp/Knighton/Murray) 4.12
06. Laissez Faire (Dubin/Lorber) 3.55
07. Step On It (Dubin/Nevil) 4.08
08. Uncle Darrow’s (Lorber) 3.55
09. When She Smiles (Dubin/Lorber) 4.49
10. Serpentine Lane (Dubin/Lorber) 4.47

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