Lorber, Jeff

views updated

Lorber, Jeff

Lorber, Jeff, American keyboardist and record producer; b. Philadelphia, Pa., Nov. 4, 1952. From the late ’70s his danceable blend of funk, Latin, and jazz has helped forge the popularity of modern fusion. A studio maven since the late ’80s, his credits read like a Who’s Who of Grammy contenders. His producing credits include Kenny G, Dave Koz, Herb Alpert, Michael Franks, Tower of Power, Sheena Easton, Karyn White, Jody Watley, Jon Lucien, Eric Marienthal, Art Porter, and the soundtrack to the movie Another 48 Hours.He has added his keyboard mastery to albums by such luminaries as Paula Abdul, the Pointer Sisters, Johnny Mathis, Gladys Knight, Manhattan Transfer, the Isley Brothers, Joe Cocker, and Paul Jackson Jr. He has also remixed tracks for U2, Chaka Khan, Bruce Hornsby, Luther Vandross, and Duran Duran. On his own releases, however, his abilities as a technician and a soloist leave the critics cold, and it has been suggested that his primary inspiration is drawn from machines, resulting in pre-packaged tracks that lack any emotionally convincing performances. His more recent work, on the other hand, displays a newly realized freedom and marked maturity as a jazz player.

He is a classically trained pianist who also studied bass, violin, and guitar. He played in R&B and blues bands when he was in high school and later attended Berklee Coll. of Music in Boston. After relocating to Ore., he began his recording career in 1977 with his group the Jeff Lorber Fusion, which featured a young Kenny G. His two Inner City releases, Jeff Lorber Fusionand Soft Space, became blueprints for the radio formats known today as NAC and Contemporary Jazz.

Between 1980 and 1985 he released seven albums on Arista and garnered a Best R&B Instrumental Grammy nomination for the smooth-jazz staple, “Pacific Coast Highway.” Never manufactured on CD, these titles have become a rare find. Although the demand is great, it is still unclear whether his Arista catalog will be reissued on CD. His greatest commercial success came in 1986 when the vocal single “Facts of Love” introduced then-unknown singer Karyn White. The Top-10 pop hit brought him huge crossover success as a vocally oriented singles artist—a blessing and a curse to his established instrumental fusion fan base. In 1991 and 1992 he was voted Best Session Player in Keyboard magazine’s Annual Reader’s Poll, and Best Dance Keyboard Player in 1993.


JeffLorber Fusion (1977); Soft Space (1978); Water Sign (1979); Galaxian (1980); Wizard Island (1980); It’s a Fact (1981); In the Heat of the Night (1983); Lift Off (1984); Step by Step (1984); Private Passion (1990); Worth Waiting For (1993); West Side Stories (1994); State of Grace (1996).

—Ralph Burnett