Jeff Lorber

Heard That

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It was some measure of the peculiarities of music marketing that 2008's Heard That, veteran keyboardist Jeff Lorber's debut for Peak Records, was categorized as "contemporary jazz," even though its musical style was essentially the same brand of pop-jazz fusion he had been playing since his first recording more than three decades earlier. But it was also some measure of the state of jazz itself, which arguably not only had not "progressed" since 1977, but had actually "regressed," with many musicians re-investigating the traditional jazz that preceded "contemporary jazz." Heard That was "contemporary jazz" in the sense that nothing had come along that was any more modern than what Lorber and his associates came up with originally. Still, a listener encountering this album without any foreknowledge would be likely to take in the popping basslines, wah-wah guitar riffs, funk rhythms, occasional R&B vocals, and, of course, the leader's melodic soloing, usually on the electronic piano, and suppose that the 1970s never ended. A technical exception to that impression might come with the second track, Lorber's version of Amy Winehouse's hit "Rehab." But, of course, that tune itself sounds like something from the '60s, in particular the Ramsey Lewis jazz/pop hit "The In Crowd," a song Lorber covered already. On the disc, Lorber collaborated closely with Rex Rideout, who co-produced with him and even joined in on keyboards, here and there, such that it was impossible to tell which of them was playing at any given moment. But the result still sounded like Lorber. Maybe the time had come to invent a new name for music played in this style. Could there be such a thing as "retro-contemporary jazz"? If so, it might sound like this.

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