Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole's Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. For what seems like the entire evolution of contemporary jazz, guitarist Chuck Loeb has provided a soothing presence that continues to resonate with true connoisseurs of the genre. In fact, for Loeb, 2013 has been a very good year. In addition to building his growing reputation as an integral part of super group Fourplay he has not only contributed to a wonderful new album from Keiko Matsui but also has released his twentieth solo recording. Titled Silhouette it finds him orchestrating four unique ensembles that allow Loeb to give listeners an insight into some of the music and musicians to have touched him throughout his career.
The first of these collectives is called The Appreciation Band and comprises three artists from three different bands with which Chuck has collaborated in the past, former Steps Ahead band member Peter Erskine, Loeb's Fourplay colleague Nathan East and Metro band-mate, keyboard player Mitch Forman. In addition this dream team are added to by guest performances from saxophonists David Mann and Eric Marienthal.
The collective kicks off Silhouette in suitably sophisticated style with the Fourplay like title cut where Mann's understated horn arrangements are really something and The Appreciation Band's next offering is the highly rhythmic 'Silver Lining'. Two tracks in and both total gems yet the beautifully deconstructed 'Present Sense' quickly makes it three for three. Continuing in the same magical vein 'Appreciation' is a delightfully jazzy piece for which Mitch Forman on keys really gets the job done. The final contribution from this fabulous four-some is Loeb's homage to one of his all-time favorite musical heroes, James Taylor. Shimmering with a mellifluous melody, 'JT' is also notable for fine playing from Marienthal and is, in every respect, an absolute joy.
The second ensemble to grace 'Silhouette' has been inspired by a project that Will Lee (bass player on the Late Show With David Letterman for 30 years) assembled last year, The Will Lee Family Band. It features legendary drummer Steve Gadd, newest addition to Pat Metheny's Group, trumpeter Giulio Carmassi and pianist and melodica player Oli Rockberger. They stay around for only one tune, the gritty, R & B flavored 'Lockdown', a number that proves to be as pleasing as it is different.
Next up comes The December 7th Trio that is a group based on Loeb's Organ Trio CD Plain 'n' Simple and who have extensively toured together. The synergy of a lineup that is anchored by Hammond B3 player Pat Bianchi and drummer Wolfgang Haffner clearly shows and completing the band is sax-man Andy Snitzer. Together they deliver the swinging 'Stompin' that courtesy of Bianchi and Snitzer ultimately takes on a decidedly straight ahead disposition.
From that point on Silhouette becomes something of a family affair as the Madrid based ensemble The Musigrama All-Stars are joined by Chuck's wife, Carmen Cuesta and their two daughters Lizzy and Christina. The result is the wistful ballad 'Esta Tarde Vi Llover', the haunting 'Las Eras' and, most notably, 'My One And Only Love' that is played out as a duo between Chuck and Lizzy. Quite simply it's beauty personified.