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Galaxy When Jeff Lorber reignited the Jeff Lorber Fusion in 2010 with Now Is the Time, he sought to re-examine the very music he'd helped to establish: contemporary jazz. Its instrumental tracks were solid and satisfying, but the vocal cuts lacked, holding fast to Lorber's M.O. as a solo artist. That said, the album sold well and earned a Grammy nomination. Galaxy features essentially the same group -- alto saxophonist Eric Marienthal, Yellowjackets' bassist Jimmy Haslip, and percussionist Lenny Castro -- with drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Dave Weckl, guitarists Michael Thompson, Anders Theander, Paul Jackson, Jr., and Larry Koonse, trumpeter Randy Brecker, and arranger Dave Mann. The seven new tunes share space with four reimagined tracks from the earlier incarnation of JLF: "The Samba," Wizard Island," "The Underground," and "The City." Lorber thinks of Galaxy as part two of Now Is the Time, but it's much more than that. It's funkier, with deeper grooves, yet it leans harder on jazz. The melodic statement in "Live Wire," which opens the set, is underscored by vamps from synthed flutes, Lorber's Rhodes piano, and the symbiotic percussion of Colaiuta and Castro. "Big Brother" is more laid-back and concentrates on setting out groove and melody simultaneously, leaving more room to explore the harmonic implications. The three-guitar approach is a nice touch, as are Marienthal's overdubbed altos. Lorber's pianos -- Rhodes and acoustic -- meet Haslip's funky, slippery bassline, trading fours and solos. "Singaraja" has a knotty, skittering vamp; the guitars and keys entwine with fine arpeggios and beautiful horns by Marienthal and Brecker. The title track is pure jazz-funk thanks to Marienthal's spiraling soprano, while Lorber's synth bassline gives Haslip room to move on the melody. "Horace," dedicated to Horace Silver -- the man who put the "funk" in jazz in the first place and was a huge influence on Lorber's playing -- is a fingerpopper from start to finish; it's a true highlight. Of the redone tracks, Lorber's group adds depth and dimension rather than just technological advances. They have more presence and more force in them. Koonse plays guitar on "The Samba," in twinned, arpeggiated exchanges with Lorber, underscored by gorgeous kit and percussion work from Colaiuta and Castro. On "The Underground," which closes things out, Lorber shines on piano and Rhodes, as does Randy Brecker in a stylized trumpet solo. The aggressive bass rumble by Haslip and stinging guitar by Jackson, Jr. (as well as Colaiuta's breakbeats) highlight what may have been missing in the original. Ultimately, Galaxy is an infinitely stronger album than its predecessor, and stands with Water Sign as the finest album the JLF has ever released. Contemporary jazz just doesn't get much better than this. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi
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Horace (Dedicsted To Horace Silver)
The Samba - Featuring Larry Koonse
The Underground - Featuring Randy Brecker
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