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Some of the biggest names in jazz-funk-fusion are lining up to release new albums. Just out is ‘Now Is The Time’ by Philly keyboard player, JEFF LORBER, and his band Jeff Lorber Fusion. Featuring the cream of the LA session fraternity – Paul Jackson Jr, Vinnie Colaiutu, Jimmy Haslip and Eric Marienthal to name a few – it’s an example of what we’ve come to expect from Lorber in recent years: an album of smooth, jazz-lite instrumental grooves interspersed with a clutch of vocal cuts (listen out in particular for ‘Sugar Free’ featuring vocalist Irene B). A big surprise is the inclusion of the Lorber band’s decent take on the edgy Wayne Shorter-penned Weather Report number, ‘Mysterious Traveller.’ The album’s out via Heads Up.
Signed to the same company is another fusion keyboard maven, GEORGE DUKE, who has a new album due. ‘Déjà Vu’ finds the former Frank Zappa sideman revisiting his funk and soul roots, and also includes a Latin excursion, ‘A Melody’ that recalls his ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ period. Saxophonist Everett Harp guests alongside flautist Hubert Laws, the ubiquitous Paul Jackson Jr and singer, Lynne Fiddmont. The release date is 30th August.
Before that comes out, on July 12th Duke’s old sparring partner, bassist extraordinaire and former Return To Forever member, STANLEY CLARKE, releases ‘The Stanley Clarke Band’ (which is also released by Heads Up). The set features the nimble-fingered keyboard skills of Japanese ivory tickler, Hiromi. Interestingly, Clarke’s set is co-produced by his old Return To Forever colleague, drummer, LENNY WHITE, who also has a new solo project about to hit the shops. ‘Anomaly’ (released by Abstract Logix) fuses jazz with rock and features impressive line up of participants – ranging from Stanley Clarke, Victor Bailey and keyboardist Bernard Wright to soul singers Vaneese Thomas, Nicki Richards and Chris Williams.
Lenny White once led a band called Jamaica Boys, whose line up included bassist MARCUS MILLER. By strange coincidence, Miller also has a new long player out on the Dreyfuss Jazz label. ‘A Night In Monte Carlo’ was recorded live in France with Miller’s band accompanied by L’Orchestre Philharmonique De Monte-Carlo. Trumpeter Roy Hargrove is a featured guest, as is singer/guitarist Raul Midon. There’s also a studio bonus track in the shape of ‘Strange Fruit,’ a updated version of the old Billie Holiday number about lynching, which features Herbie Hancock on piano. The album’s out on 14th June.