Tell Me a Story: Chuck Loeb

So – I will now kick off the Jazz Spotlighting series and begin with the guitar – and Mr Chuck Loeb.

He hails originally from Nyack, NY and is a Berklee College of Music alum that discovered the guitar at 11 and jazz at 16. The skill is evident and well-honed, his guitar handling natural and easygoing and it is clear that behind every note, there is a lot of passion and thought, whether it is on a CD or in show. No sound is wasted, no lick unused – which is exactly what draws the listener in.

My discovery of Chuck Loeb was accidental and happened the same way I stumbled onto jazz music overall: through the now-remodeled radio station CD 101.9 (long may it live). I was about 15, listening to it and I hear this fast-paced, sweeping syncopation that would fit well with a scene of island nightlife. The DJ of the time introduced it as Sarao – and I immediately got hooked.I dug a little deeper and discovered the rest of All There Is.

The more I listened to that album, the more I realized that the music of Mr. Loeb makes for a good scenery soundtrack. For example, let’s take Sierra Nevada, same album. The tune itself is slow and slinky, and immediately upon hearing, one almost immediately thinks of a scene that could match the song. A cliff overlooking Las Vegas? A sunset at Lake Tahoe? That depends on the listener. The gentle saxophone accent of David Mann underscores the mood of it further – there’s no mistaking what sort of scenery goes well with it. The blend of the guitar and sax itself is flawless; a perfect match to the intended mood.

Sarao carries a similar effect, although the tone is quite different. His wife, Carmen Cuesta, does an introduction that is almost deceptive to the rest of the track’s tone. Once the guitar takes over, hold on tight – it’s a fun, swift-paced ride and as the notes take on their flow, you don’t notice yourself walk just a little faster, just a little springier. Or you end up giving your car’s accelerator just a little extra juice so that the rhythm of your movement matches the rhythm of the song. It’s definitely a good tune to have for a scenic drive, preferrably one with minimal traffic. Belt Parkway, heading to the Verazzano Bridge at sunset time, the sun blazing on your left arm and little traffic

On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for versatility. Chuck played with Stan Getz, wherein he honed the contemporary/smooth jazz skill that first caught my attention, but in recent time, with Presence and Between 2 Worlds, he gave proof positive that variety is by no means foreign to him – and did he deliver.

Between 2 Worlds is a showcase that music in the Loeb family is a family affair indeed; his daughter Lizzy is featured in Oh No You Didn’t, a break-up song with a hearty dose of flair. Carmen Cuesta takes front and center with a throwback to bossa nova and  does a knock-your-socks-off rendition of So Tinha De Que Ser Com Voce after which I could only say, “I died and went to Rio De Janeiro.”

Wait, bossa nova, you ask?

Yep, that’s exactly what I mean by ‘variety’. Considering that I’ve mostly known Chuck Loeb in the contemporary style, to see a throwback to the days of Jobim and Gilberto was both a refreshing change and a moment of hot damn, loving this.

That said, I have yet to find a track on a Loeb album that doesn’t carry a story within the sounds. Matter of fact, I’ve written a vignette to something off Presence, found here.

And all of that said, keep on keepin’ on, Mr. Loeb, and here is to more stories from your guitar strings.

K.G.

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