C.J.: Jeff Lorber, pioneer of smooth jazz who'll do it as long as he can

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 24, 2013 - 6:23 PM

Jeff Lorber fans owe a debt of gratitude to his wife, Mink, which will be disclosed shortly. A father of fusion and a pioneer of smooth jazz, Lorber returns to the Dakota in Minneapolis for two shows a night Tuesday and Wednesday, playing in multi-instrumentalist Shaun LaBelle’s “dream band.” My friend LaBelle is launching his latest CD, “I’m Back,” with the gig that also stars sax player Everette Harp and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Stokley, of Mint Condition.

I interviewed Lorber for this startribune.com/video Q & A when he was here in February 2012, not imagining he would be so long returning. There’ll be a short wait for his next CD, “Hacienda,” being released at the end of the month. For more on “Hacienda,” check lorber.com.


Q Did you always want to be a musician?

A I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but when I graduated high school, I knew I loved music. I loved it more than anything else. I went to music school and that led to a career as a musician. I did actually kind of get away from it for a while. I was a chemistry student at Boston University for a couple of years.


Q So you can do math?

A I can try to do some math. [Laugh] Actually, it really came in handy because all this new music technology requires kind of a scientific mind to master it.


Q Do you think the music industry has lost its way?

A It’s tough. Unfortunately, I think music has taken a little bit of a back seat compared to the way it was years ago, with people spending all their time online and [with] other forms of entertainment. At the same time, I think people still love music and I know I love making and playing it. I’m going to stick with it as long as I can.


Q What do you think of jazz being categorized as smooth jazz?

A Smooth jazz was a radio format. That was great for giving instrumental artists a chance to be heard. Unfortunately, the way it has been, it’s become sort of an irresistible punching bag. I’ve done what I’ve always done: make funky, melodic music. I hope listeners get a chance to hear what I’m doing without having to be filtered by the critics.


Q Is Patti Austin the greatest singer in the world or is this just my opinion?

A Well, she’s an excellent singer. The work that she did with Quincy Jones on “The Dude” album was the first time I ever heard of her. That’s probably one of the best records ever made. I think that sort of established her career. I actually worked on one of her albums. The album’s called “Getting Away with Murder.” I’m sure you know that she’s a real stitch to hang out with, a real fun lady.


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