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Tribute to Chuck Loeb

Chuck Loeb – Smooth Jazz guitarist par excellence

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of guitarist Chuck Loeb on 31st July from cancer. He was 61. Check was born in Nyack, New York in 1955, he grew up listening to Rock music and was impressed by artists like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Later aged 16, he started listening to Jazz and guitarists such as Wes Montgomery, George Benson and John McLaughlin. From then on, he knew he wanted to be a professional guitarist.

Loeb attended the Berklee College of Music for two years and took lessons from Jazz great Jim Hall amongst others. He played with the likes of Chico Hamilton, Hubert Laws and Rat Barretto and in 1979 joined Stan Getz’s band, where he stayed for five years. Getz was best man at Chuck’s wedding to Spanish singer Carmen Cuesta, who was to sing on several of Loeb’s recordings. He joined Michael Brecker’s band Steps Ahead, first appearing on the band’s seminal set ‘Modern Times’ in 1984.

Chuck Loeb began his solo career with his ‘My Shining Hour’ album in 1989. He was to record over twenty albums in the next twenty-seven years. Whilst the albums were Smooth Jazz, Loeb fused elements of R&B, Blues, soft Rock and Latin elements into his music. His guitar playing was always tasteful and his blues inflected style transcended Smooth Jazz. Loeb’s strongest albums date from the 90’s during his first stint with Shanachie, especially ‘The Music Inside’ and ‘Listen’ from 1996 and 1999 respectively.

Loeb was a popular musician and gigged regularly with Bob James. Indeed, he joined Fourplay, the collective of which James is a member in 2010 where he replaced Larry Carlton. His performances with the group, both live and on disc were compelling and inventive. He will be sorely missed by his fellow band members.

He was also a prolific composer for film and television as well as for his own and Fourplay’s recordings. His compositions include the theme to ABC’s Nightline and the CNN Headline News as well as music for various basketball teams including his own beloved New York Yankees.

I had the pleasure of meeting Chuck on many occasions. He was unassuming and friendly – a Mr. nice guy. One time, I bumped into him outside the Clapham Grand after a Fourplay gig, where Soul Brother had been doing the merchandising. He was standing outside leaning on his guitar with a bemused smile on his face. The band had departed for the hotel in a courtesy car and left him behind, literally standing on the corner, which he found very amusing despite the fact they were catching an early flight to Europe (Munich I think)!!

Chuck RIP.