Photo of Chuck Loeb by John Secoges
Unfortunately, here we are writing another remembrance for a fallen jazz-guitar soldier this year—Chuck Loeb, who passed away on July 31, 2017 of cancer at just 61 years old.
I was good friends with Chuck, and we recorded a number of songs together through the years. Chuck was such a great guy, and an incredible guitarist—right up there with Pat Metheny and Joe Pass. We were both native New Yorkers, and we were raised on jazz fusion through the '70s. Before there was smooth jazz, there was quality fusion, and CD101.9 FM radio in New York was the forefront in this movement. I remember Chuck saying when the format moved to smooth jazz, the first thing to go in a song was always the guitar solo—to make room for more sax!
Chuck joined Steps Ahead in the mid 1980s and appeared on three albums: Modern Times (1984), Magnetic (1986) and Yin Yang (1992). Then, he had a successful solo career with more than 21 releases, and enjoyed many hits on smooth-jazz radio. In 2010, when Larry Carlton left the super-group Fourplay, Chuck took over his guitar role and was with them until his passing. The Foreplay album Jazz, Funk, Soul earned a Grammy nomination in 2014.
Like many of today's jazz guitarists, Chuck never used an amp in the studio, relying on either a Line 6 modeler or an amp plug-in. On stage, however, he did use two Roland Blues Cubes for stereo imaging, along with his custom-made Sadowsky guitars.
Here's a wonderful demo...
I first met Chuck Loeb 25 years ago. Back then, I was a new artist performing at the Orange County Jazz Festival. Chuck was performing on the main stage, and I was stuck off in the wilderness on a much smaller stage. At break time, there was a mad dash for the food buffet, and Chuck actually came up to me and said he had heard my new single on contemporary jazz radio and liked it. I was really taken aback, because for him to even acknowledge a new artist was a real honor. But that was the kind of guy he was—humble and supportive of his fellow musicians. He didn’t look upon us as rivals, as many artists do, but as equals.
Chuck Loeb stood head and shoulders above the crowd as a consummate musician, and, with his passing, the music world has lost a great statesman of jazz guitar.