Our Chat with the Great Jeff Lorber (retro interview) Part Two

jeff_lorber_fusionJeff Lorber is currently sitting at #1 on the Billboard Charts with “Get Up.” His Jeff Lorber Fusion project was re-jigged a few years ago with Jimmy Haslip formerly of the Yellowjackets. Check out part two of our Retro Interview with Jeff Lorber. (there is a link below to part one)

John – Did your parents make you play piano?

Jeff – Well, my mom was actually quite an accomplished classical piano player she went to music school herself growing up in Manhattan. I remember as a child going to sleep and my mom would be playing the piano in the background so that’s a really nice memory. I had two older sisters who were taking lessons they didn’t stick with it but there was just a lot of music around the house and we had a nice grand piano, so for me it was just a natural thing to do and to want to learn how to play that thing. I had a cousin who was a number of years older than I was that sort of turned me on to Jazz at an early age. He gave me four records and one of them was a Thelonious Monk record and another was a McCoy Tyner record. I hadn’t heard much Jazz besides that up until that time so I kinda wore those records out. When I got into high school was when I started getting much more interested in Jazz and then I ended up going to Berklee College of Music. That’s where I thoroughly immersed myself into Jazz history, the history of Jazz piano. I then started to explore Herbie (Hancock) and Chick (Corea) and some of the predecessors like Horace Silver who was really the first guy that I ever listened to where I could really understand what he was doing that wasn’t way over my head. So I started learning a lot of Horace Silver music and eventually I started getting into Red Garland, who’s one of my favorites and then there’s Bill Evans and McCoy. I started understanding what Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock were doing.

John – Bill Evans did it for me and I guess Keith Jarrett. I was such a closet Jazz lover thinking that my friends would kick me out if I liked this stuff. Bill Evans made it ok for me especially.

Jeff – It’s funny that you should say that because I remember when I first started getting into Jazz that’s exactly what I was feeling was wow, I can listen to this Jazz record and every time I hear it I can sort of get into it more and hear more things that really interests me and really engage me. Some of the rock records I loved and I was really into them but I really didn’t have that feeling about them. Once I heard the rock stuff that was pretty much it I couldn’t continuously listen to rock over and over and discover more things all the time the way I could with Miles Davis or some of the other Jazz things. As far as Herbie, you were talking about funk, Herbie is such a consummate musician in so many ways but the records that he made in the 80’s were so funk. There’s still hardly any thing out there that’s funkier than that.

John – So, you were involved in the memorial concert for Art Porter’s kids.

Jeff – Yes I was. I was glad to participate in that.

John – I remember being so sad when I hear about the boating accident and him dying in Thailand.

Jeff – I was actually there in Bangkok. I wasn’t there to actually witness what happened to him but I’d spent the day with him, the day before this accident happened, it really hit. I mean all the musicians in that festival over there were all deeply affected by that and it was a very sad experience. He was such a great guy and such a tremendous talent.

John – I keep hearing that over and over and to make it even more tragic with his wife dying shortly after. I felt so bad for the kids!

Jeff – It was so incredibly sad.

jeff_lorber_july_2John – Tell me about the two sides of Jeff Lorber, the producer and the artist?

Jeff – Well, as a producer you don’t get the feedback and it’s not the rush that performing is but it’s very rewarding. I love writing, I love the creative process in the studio and I love working with gifted musicians and watching them perform. I think both parts of it can really help each other. If you just spend all your time in the studio you’ll never see what a real audience is like and so you could lose touch with reality a little bit. By the same token it’s wonderful to get into the studio and write and create new things and that kind of gives you fuel to go out and perform, so it’s all part of the job and hopefully I can keep doing this for a while. (laughing)

John – What was it like working with Herb Alpert?

Jeff – That was very enjoyable. He’s a terrific guy and very talented. Running A&M records he was involved with so many different projects over the years. He interacted with so many musicians on so many levels. His knowledge of music is sort of Encyclopedic and then there’s his knowledge of melody. It was fun to collaborate with him. I just talked to him recently and we might get together and do something again sometime.

John – I hear he’s a really, really nice incredibly rich guy! (Laughing)

Jeff – (laughing) That is true. He is very rich!

John – Carol Archer of R&R magazine and I were talking quite a while ago about the lacking of crazy ego’s in Smooth Jazz.

Jeff – Have you talked to Boney James lately? (Laughing) Just kidding! (laughing) I think the truth of the matter is that most of the people in this format really had to work to pay their dues and to learn their instrument and it’s not easy you know. It’s sort of like the equivalent in getting a degree in medicine or being a lawyer or something like that. To learn a world class musician and learn your instrument and to practice like that to get to that level it’s not easy. I think for some people who get to that level well they have matured and they have a different attitude about life and about interacting with other people more so than some of these pop artists. That whole pop thing has a completely different energy to it. I think people are about the music. People love it that do it because they are not doing it for the money really because it’s not a tremendously lucrative situation for most of us. It’s about the music.

jeff_lorber_fusion_9000John – How do you feel about Smooth Jazz radio? Do you think it will evolve?

Jeff – You know it’s hard to tell. It’s always changing. It’s always evolving. Radio is about selling advertisement and getting the best ratings possible and that isn’t always what’s best for the artist. What the radio station is going after and what the artist is going after as a creative entity and as someone’s who’s trying to push the envelope, it’s not always the same goal in mind unfortunately. Rather than rag on the situation and it’s easy to do and to point fingers and to say I wish they’d play more exciting music or not play so much old songs that I’m sick of all the time. This is what it is. This is the reality and I try to make the best out of it and I try to have a positive attitude as much as I can.

John – Let’s get back to the new album Philly Style. Listen, if this album isn’t successful well heads are gonna role. (Laughing)

Jeff – (laughing) Well we worked very hard on it and we’re proud of it and we hope it does well. You know after we make it we certainly hope for the best and we hope other people get a chance to enjoy it but it’s a little bit of the role of the dice and I hope they role the right way.

John – Jeff, I really appreciate the talk.

Jeff – It’s been a pleasure talking to you John. You’re very well informed and it’s been a lot of fun.