Jeff Lorber Fusion: Galaxy (Heads Up)

Throughout his 35-year recording career, jazz keyboardist Jeff Lorber has consistently defied those who would lazily slap him with the "smooth jazz" label. With and without his group, the Jeff Lorber Fusion, he has played electric, groove-based jazz infused with elements of funk, R&B, pop, Latin and rock music.

This is the second album by the latest iteration of JLF—which Lorber reconvened in 2010—and it combines seven fresh compositions with four tunes culled from the band's early catalog: "Wizard Island," "City," "The Underground" and "The Samba."

The melodies on Galaxy are catchy and accessible, the arrangements taut and tasteful, but there is also creative tension in the tracks. It helps to have seasoned veterans, such as saxophonist Eric Marienthal, trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Jimmy Haslip, drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Dave Weckl, and no less than four guitarists.

Lorber takes occasional solos, burning up the Fender Rhodes on the deeply funky "Big Brother" and, especially, the explosive Tower of Power-leaning "Montserrat," but he leaves ample room for guitar and horn solos. The entire crew shows off monster chops.

Perhaps the best example is "Horace," a tribute to the great pianist Horace Silver, a pioneer for incorporating funk and Caribbean styles in jazz. The track is proof Lorber has not lost a step. Or his edge.

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