By Raymond Jackson
The Dakota Nightclub continues to show why it’s one of the best musical venues in downtown Minneapolis, as it recently brought Jeff Lorber and friends back to the club for what was billed as a reunion show. Lorber was joined by Twin Cities’ own Stokley Williams, lead vocalist and drummer for Mint Condition; Shaun Labelle, bass player from Golden Valley who has recorded and performed with Lorber for many years; and Marlon McClain, lead guitar player who founded the hit recording group Pleasure. They put on a dynamic performance.
Lorber is a remarkable keyboardist who puts an emphasis on jazz fusion, intertwined with R&B. The MSR had a chance to sit with him, along with Labelle and McClain prior to the first performance of the night on November 30.
When asked about his career highlights Lorber said, “Over the years, for me, there have been a lot of highlights. I simply love playing music. It’s a lot of fun and the many artists I’ve had the opportunities to perform with are just great. For instance, I had the opportunity to open up for Stokley [and] Mint Condition at The Riverview Supper Club, and I fell in love with their hit, ‘Pretty Brown Eyes.’”
Lorber was born and raised in Philadelphia, ‘The City of Brotherly Love,’ so he was around and involved with many dynamite artists while performing and recording for over four decades.
He continued, “People like Shaun and Marlon, they keep me going. The guys are not just very good artists, but they are funny; they make you laugh all the time.
“Marlon was my first producer. We made some mistakes working in the old 16 track system, but we also realized that good temperament was very important. When I reflect on local highlights, The Riverview was one, in that, Flyte Time, opened for me there. So the early to late 80s were beautiful — for me, a height of popularity and support.”
When asked about Minnesota’s notorious winter weather Lorber replied, “I lived in Portland for many years and they have a commonality with the Twin Cities when it comes to weather. When the weather is not the best, artists have a tendency to stay inside and create good music, as they wait things out. I worked in a record shop while living in Portland, which kept me around good music.”
When asked his opinion on the return to wax movement that many are involved in now, Lorber replied, “It’s really fun; I’ve kept all my vinyl, but I don’t think it will be more than a niche, you know, a blast from the past. Digital is here to stay.”
To that point LaBelle said, “You lose high ends and volume when working with vinyl. Digital files just sound so much better.”
Our conversation then turned to the loss of Prince and each needed to speak.
Lorber said, “He was obviously ahead of his time. Talent came out from him and around him. We are all an extension or product of Prince.”
McClain stated, “He created a work ethic that we all had to follow, and he had no problem being a regular guy.”
“One of those guys that had very high standards,” added LaBelle of Prince. “Shows had to be on point at every moment.”
Lorber closed with, “This comes from being a student, and having that reverence and respect for music.”
You could truly get a sense that all the performers had a healthy reverence for music at this show, as each artist was given the opportunity to perform some of their own work. The concert ended on an uplifting note, closing with Marvin Gaye’s classic “What’s Going On.”
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