Jeff Lorber

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Midnight Review

by Jonathan Widran

How's this for a definition of a smooth jazz elder statesman: one whose career spans an entire generation, whose hit album in 1999 uses the same instrumentation and stylistic approach as his first demo 24 years before, only now those old instruments and style are hip again as part of a retro movement? Listened to side by side, Midnight and his 1977 breakthrough Water Sign are like twin sons born to the same family years apart. In addition to the hypnotic clicking wah-wah guitar grooves, both albums focus on Fender Rhodes and Hammond B-3, the attractive one-two keyboard punch Lorber has favored for all of his career but the mid-'80s when he experimented with techno sounds. Lorber sets the tone on the hiss-and-pop LP effect before the music begins on "Down Low." The title of the second track, "The Simple Life," best reflects this old-school mentality. On that tune, Lorber experiments on the Rhodes by holding notes of the melody for different lengths of time, creating those unusual distortions; then he'll use those sounds alternately while improvising off the main melody and enhance certain lines with a brief B-3 wash or an acoustic piano flourish. The introduction to the title track is a wayward Rhodes line wandering in search of a groove, which Lorber helps create by providing the wah-wah-flavored rhythmic click himself.

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