Hacienda is the third volume in the Jeff Lorber Fusion's revisioning of the music they began with in the late '70s and early '80s, with a 21st century twist. Co-produced by Lorber and bassist Jimmy Haslip, the trio is rounded out by drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. There are a slew of studio regulars here to boot, including guitarists Paul Jackson, Jr. and Michael Thompson, horn players Eric Marienthal and David Mann, and percussionist Lenny Castro. "Solar Wind," featuring guest Larry Koonse on guitar, is a fine example of Lorber's current obsession with intricate composition. While its pulse is kept by Haslip and expanded by Colaiuta, the complex lyric sets up terrific solos by Mann, Lorber, and Koonse. There is a real surprise here in the cover of Frank Zappa's "King Kong," with guest Jean-Luc Ponty on violin. The band attacks it with discipline and class. There's a rockist backdrop, and Haslip's bassline not only threads the changes but foreshadows them. There are fine keyboard and violin solos -- and killer wah-wah guitar from Thompson -- as this band weds itself to the composer's shifty time changes and spidery melodies. Ed Mann's marimba fills out the sound and adds lyric counterpoint. This tune is followed by the majestic, midtempo "The Steppe," a shimmering, layered groover with crystalline piano from Lorber, soulful alto from Marienthal, and a virtual orchestra of guitars from Thompson. The title track is a driving dance number (it's named for the Manchester dance club), with some surprising rhythmic changes inside the groove. Haslip's bass is bubbling and funky while Colaiuta lays out some outstanding breaks on the repetitive theme. Lorber throws in some killer vamps on a variety of keys and Marienthal's alto solo accents the changes even as it glides over the top. A small misstep occurs in sequencing two midtempo ballads -- "Everlast" and "Playa del Falco" -- next to one another, but the heavier grooves come back on "Escapade," with nice horns from both Marienthal and Mann; Lorber's soloing is in the pocket yet wildly creative, and his piano arpeggios showcase his own roots-jazz-funk in the soul-jazz tradition, evoking Horace Silver, Sonny Clark, Herbie Hancock, and Ramsey Lewis. Hacienda features some of Lorber's best compositions in recent memory.
This set is more varied than the hard party aspect of Galaxy: the fusion aspect is more pronounced, while the overall mood and flow is more diverse, nuanced, and beautifully textured.