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Three Gems of Chuck Loeb Easily Overlooked



Chuck was born December 7, 1955, in Nyack, New York, a sleepy college town an hour up the Hudson River from New York City.  As a teenager, he listened to Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, and other rock guitarists.  At age sixteen someone turned him on to Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and Pat Martino causing him to pursue jazz guitar as a profession. He studied for two years at Berklee College and then in 1976 moved to New York City to seek professional work as a musician.  Chuck’s big break came in 1979 when he was invited to join tenor saxophonist Stan Getz’s band.  Getz later served as best man at his wedding to the love of his life, singer Carmen Cuesta. Carmen and he were married until July of 2017 when Chuck died of cancer.

In the 1980’s Chuck was a member of the group Steps Ahead which included saxophonist Michael Brecker who influenced much of Chuck’s musical thinking. In addition to studio work, Chuck recorded a number of albums as a leader, produced a number of smooth jazz artist’s recordings, including one for Larry Coryell, and in 2010 was called by pianist Bob James to join the fusion supergroup Fourplay when Larry Carlton left. 

Some of Chuck’s best playing is on recordings where he was a sideman.  Here are featured two by clarinetist Eddie Daniels and one of tenor master Stan Getz.

Eddie Daniel’s Nepenthe;  GRP Records GRD 9807;  Eddie Daniels: clarinet; Chuck Loeb: guitar; John Patitucci: bass; Sammy Figueroa: percussion; Dave Weckl: drums  1990

I find myself listening to this album over and over for three reasons:  Great playing, great original songs, and it is well recorded or great sonics! Often great players are not as skilled when it comes to composing and it can be hard to get through even one listening of their compositions.  Not so here, the seven Eddie Daniels originals and two from Chuck Loeb plus two standards are songs that this listener joyfully comes back to again and again. The album opens with Loeb’s “Sun Dance” where Chuck doubles on both acoustic and electric guitars. Eddie Daniels’ command of the clarinet in its upper register is spell-binding. The intuitive improvised fills of bassist John Patitucci sound as if they were part of the original tune. After Coltrane’s “Equinox” comes Daniels’ title track where the musical energy seems to abound. Loeb’s volume pedal and high voicings in his comping create an ethereal ambiance on Eddie’s “Waltz of Another Color.” Glorious unison prevails on the otherworldly “Suenos (Dreams)” followed by the blistering “Chaser” where Chuck’s almost machine gun-like soloing is where one hears the impact of the Pat Martino records he listened to as a teenager.  He pairs those scorching lines in a duet with Dave Weckl’s drums during the latter part of the tune. The rest of the album is as exquisite as the beginning.  Again, great music, great playing and really well recorded.

Eddie Daniel’s Real Time;  Chesky Records JD 118;  Eddie Daniels: clarinet and tenor sax; Chuck Loeb: guitar; Ned Mann: bass; Adam Nussbaum: drums  1994

The album opens with Chuck’s “Rainbow Shadows” which is a lightly funky go-getter of a song.  Two great Gershwin classics follow, “The Man I Love” and “Love Walked In” where Daniels’ command of the upper register of the clarinet just seems to float over Loeb’s contrapuntal comping. Loeb is equally supportive of Eddie’s tenor work on “Love Walked In.”  Another highpoint is the burning tempo on the standard “Falling in Love with Love” that contrasts the subdued but musically intense ballad “My Foolish Heart.”  The passion continues in their fiery playing on “You Stepped Out of a Dream.” After Oscar Pettiford’s “Tricotism” the album ends with some enthusiastic unison playing between Daniel’s tenor and Loeb’s guitar on Eddie’s “Farrell.”

Stan Getz’s Billy Highstreet Samba; Emarcy-Polygram Records 838 771-2;  Stan Getz: sax; Chuck Loeb: guitar; Mitchel Forman: piano; Mark Egan: bass; Bobby Thomas Jr.: percussion; Victor Lewis: drums  1990

This was recorded in Paris in 1981 but not released in the U.S. until 1990. The opener is Forman’s “Hospitality Creek” which draws the listener in with its many mood changes.  Next is Loeb’s haunting “Anytime Tomorrow” where that famous tone of Stan Getz is like a Greek siren luring the listener onto the dangerous rocky cliffs. When it’s Chuck’s turn to solo, he is equally interesting but in a different way.  The same is true of Mitchel’s piano solo.  Next is Chuck’s ballad “Be There Then” which is a great tune and rare time that Stan Getz plays soprano sax. There is also some fine playing by Mark Egan on bass.  The fourth tune is Loeb’s blazing title track that features the engaging percussion work by Bobby Thomas Jr and great solos by Getz and Loeb. Mitchel Forman’s “The Dirge” is another precious time Stan Getz very lyrically masters the soprano sax.  Next is one of my favorite renditions of the classic standard “Body and Soul” but this time the melody is never played but the improvised playing of Getz, Loeb, and Forman is so satisfying that your soul seems enriched at the close of the song. Two other Loeb originals fill out the roster of great tunes on this album. In the last, Loeb’s “Tuesday Next,” we again hear Pat Martino’s sweltering influence upon Chuck’s soloing.

Chuck Loeb did many other fine recordings in various settings but these are three albums that you do not want to miss.

Dr. Barth is the author of Voices in Jazz Guitar: Great Performers Tell about Their Approach to Playing (Mel Bay) available at and elsewhere. 

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