Keyboardist Jeff Lorber's bluesy, retro-funk production techniques have pushed numerous genre stars -- from Eric Marienthal to the late Art Porter -- to great creative heights, and he adds a similarly soulful energy to the solid debut of vibist Dirk Richter. Named Vibes Alive, a title which captures the lighthearted, loose ensemble nature of the tunes, the album makes a great case for the mallet instrument as a viable smooth jazz vehicle. While Dave Samuels' solos with Spyro Gyra may be the only exposure genre audiences have had to the warm, tropical tones of the vibes, they have always been in counterpoint to the saxophone. Here, Richter takes charge, carrying cool melodies atop those trademark Lorber rhythms and harmonies on '70s throwbacks like the Hammond B-3 and the Wurlitzer electric piano. Richter gets the tropical thing going at times, but more impressively, he's equally proficient as a jazz soloist and in the funky urban mode. Other studio heavyweights like Luis Conte, Jimmy Johnson, and Jimmy Haslip participate, but aside from Lorber, it's co-producer and guitarist Randall Crissman whose soloing makes the most striking impression.