Personnel: Jeff Lorber (guitar, wah-wah guitar, piano, Fender Rhodes piano, Wurlitzer organ, keyboards); Jeff Lorber; Eric Wall (guitar); Steve Dubin (bass instrument, drum programming); Alex Al (bass instrument); Paul Jackson, Jr. (guitar, acoustic guitar); Robbie Nevil (guitar); Victor Lawrence (cello); Gary Meek (flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); David Mann (saxophone, tenor saxophone); Ron King (trumpet); Nelson Jackson (horns, keyboards, bass synthesizer); John Roberts (drums); Lenny Castro (congas, percussion); Andrea Martin (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Jez Colin.
Recording information: Dubie Grooves Studio; JHL Sound; Westlake.
The legendary keyboardist started making his unique brand of old-school soul meets modern funk back when old-school was still in session, and the title of his third Narada Jazz disc is a throwback to that era, when the 45 RPM was king. Rather than overwhelm this time with hardcore commercial funk grooves and calculated radio hooks, Jeff Lorber is more into cool vibes and soulful atmospheres. Melodies have always been his gift, so those just come naturally, as on the laid-back, chillout opening track, which features a lush, loose acoustic piano lead. There are less horns than usual, but Ron King (trumpet) and Gary Meek (sax) are given free reign to create snazzy textures on "Everybody Knows That" and the nifty, acoustic soul-jazz flavored title track. "Angel in Paris" is all swinging '60s jazz-funk, complete with a shimmering Rhodes lead as only Lorber can play. Working with co-producer Steve Dubin and keyboardist Nelson Jackson, Lorber lets the tunes develop beginning with off the cuff improvisations and inspired acoustic runs, then creating easy grooving, '70s-minded rhythm beds to ground them. As the album title promises, there are a few oft-hidden sides to Lorber that are on prominent display here -- such as his softer heart on the classical flavored, candlelit "By My Side" and a moody blast from the past, a re-recording of "Tune 88" (originally on 1979's Water Sign) that reminds people that the style that evolved into smooth jazz was once pretty darn adventurous. There's a little darker imagery than fans of the lighter side of Lorber are used to, but isn't that what the B-sides in the old days were for? ~ Jonathan Widran