Keyboard player Jeff Lorber isn't so much changing his tune as his delivery. Lorber, who performs at Blues Alley this afternoon and tomorrow night, has been quite successful over the past few years with a jazz-pop fusion sound. "Fusion is still part of our set, but we're heading more towards an R&B-pop sound," he says. "The band is now pretty much vocal oriented and that the direction we're going in."
For proof, Lorber points out that on his past few records, the ratio was three vocals to six or seven instrumentals. On his new Arista album, "Step by Step," "it's three instrumentals and the rest are vocals. Our singers are Audrey Wheeler and James Robinson, who used to be the lead singer in an R&B band called Change," whose previous lead singer was Luther Vandross. The six-piece band also features saxophonist and ex-Doobie Brother Cornelius Bumpus.
"We just decided to change direction," Lorber says. "I've made a lot of fusion records and they've done reasonably well. But I'm not into making the same record over and over again. I wanted to get more into vocals, to try to make music that a lot of people can appreciate. But there's still a lot of jazz influence, in terms of textures and structures. There's probably a little more soloing on my records than a typical R&B record."
Lorber is also quite busy on the session and writing side since moving to Los Angeles last year. The title song on "Step by Step" was written with Anita Pointer while Lorber was working on the Pointer Sisters' forthcoming album; he also arranged and played on Debarge's current hit, "Rhythm of the Night." Among those helping out on the new Lorber album: Jerry Knight, who wrote the theme song for "Breakin'," and Bunny Hull, who wrote Patti Labelle's current hit, "New Attitude."
"There's a lot of good writers involved," says Lorber, "so I'm quite happy with the songs.