Guitarist, composer, arranger and producer, Chuck Loeb has
just published his latest CD Presence on his new
label, Heads Up. In July 2007 he will perform several gigs
in Spain with the Reunion Band, featuring some big names from
the jazz fusion movement. A few days before he flew to Spain
from New York, Arturo Mora spoke to Loeb over the phone; the
guitarist talks about various aspects of his career and music
in general, showing a rare clarity of ideas.
ARTURO MORA: You will play five gigs in Spain
in July with the Reunion Band (Eric Marienthal, Till Bronner,
Chuck Loeb, Jim Beard, Tim Lefebvre and Dennis Chambers with
special guest Michael Franks). What can you tell us about
CHUCK LOEB: It began as a project to celebrate
the 15th anniversary of Festival Jazz y Más in the
Canary Islands… that was last year. That band was basically
the same, except the bassist and the drummer. This year instead
of Josh Dion on drums and Anthony Jackson on bass we have
Dennis Chambers on drums and Tim Lefebvre on bass. About five
years ago they started talking to me in the Canary Islands
about putting together a band to celebrate the 15th anniversary,
and over the years we spoke more and more about who should
be involved, along with some guests that we had in the shows
last year: Rosa Passos and Hiram Bullock and a local bassist
named Charlie Moreno. Then we decided after the success of
the mini-tour in the Canary Islands last year to continue
it, because it was so much fun and the music was good. We
tried to get the entire band back, but there were some problems
with scheduling; for example: Anthony Jackson is on tour with
Mike Stern this Summer, and Josh Dion has his own rock'n'roll
band, and he's very busy with that this Summer. So we found
that Dennis [Chambers] was available and Tim Lefebvre as well.
ARTURO MORA: With such great players in the
band, was it difficult to choose the repertoire?
CHUCK LOEB: Yeah, that was one of the biggest
problems actually. First of all, because everybody had so
much music that they wanted to play, and of course we tried
to play something by each member of the band; so, it takes
a little bit of juggling and sacrifice, but we have a very
good programme that features originals and some standards
ARTURO MORA: Are there any plans for a future
CHUCK LOEB: Actually we did a recording last
year, one of the concerts at the Canary Islands, and it's
being mixed. Unfortunately won't be finished in time to sell
at these concerts that we're doing now, but it should be coming
out some time within the next year or so.
ARTURO MORA: Perfect. In which label?
CHUCK LOEB: We don't know yet, that's a problem.
Everybody is on a different record label, so it's a little
bit of a negotiation (laughs).
ARTURO MORA: What would you like to tell us
about your new CD Presence (Heads Up 2007)?
CHUCK LOEB: Well, for me it's a big change,
because I've been in a record label (Shanachie) for ten years,
doing seven of my CDs and many others as a producer, and a
couple of years ago that relationship came to an end, and
I got together with Heads Up International, which is part
of Telarc and Concord; so it's been a big change for me, a
new label, new people, but they're doing a great job and I'm
very happy with it.
Presence is a typical Chuck Loeb record
anyway, there's a different mix of styles, but somehow it
sounds like me.
ARTURO MORA: You have worked with Heads Up before
as a producer, haven't you?
CHUCK LOEB: Yes I have, and I've known Dave
Love, the owner of the company, for many years. The good thing
about it is that a lot of the other artists in the label are
friends, people that I've worked with in the past: the Yellowjackets,
Spyro Gyra who I work with very very much, Michael Brecker,
who unfortunately is no longer with us, and Mike Stern. So
it's a good place.
ARTURO MORA: You've mentioned Michael Brecker,
whom you played with in Steps Ahead in the mid-Eighties. What
can you tell us about your relationship with him?
CHUCK LOEB: [Pause] Well, first of all I would
say that he was one of my major influences and idols as a
musician. I think that there are people that become kind of
a standard, like they set a standard of where you should try
to arrive as a musician. When he died I wrote a little article
about this. As a young musician I had a lot of idols like
Wes Montgomery, John McLaughlin, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock,
John Coltrane, Pat Martino... and then in the mid-Seventies
I got to hear Michael Brecker play in a small club, and all
of a sudden he was a new label that I found available, that
became kind of a standard, something to strive for.
ARTURO MORA: I agree. You've produced records
for musicians like Donald Harrison, Spyro Gyra, Larry Coryell
or Warren Bernhardt. What would you emphasize from your production
CHUCK LOEB: Well, for me that part of music
is maybe the most fun, because you are involved in the very
beginning, picking the material, the musicians, the studio,
the engineer, the order and the sequence of the tracks, ...
it's the whole thing, it's a complete involvement with the
music, and to me that's really fun, because it's a big picture.
It's great to just play the guitar in a concert, but I do
love production, and to work with artists like the ones you
mentioned, or Bob James, or Michael Franks is like a honor
to work with people that are also producers and they're asking
me to help them make music. It's a pretty thrilling experience.
ARTURO MORA: So you're a producer, a composer,
a jazz guitar player who's also played in other different
styles... How would you define yourself as a musician?
CHUCK LOEB: I like to think of myself as what
I call a round musician, I mean someone who composes, produces,
plays, performs, arranges, ... plays in all different aspects
of the art form. I like people like Herbie Hancock or Chick
Corea, Marcus Miller, Dave Grusin or Bob James, who are musicians
that do a little bit of everything and are involved in the
ARTURO MORA: Have you ever thought on releasing
a straight-ahead jazz CD?
CHUCK LOEB: Yes, I'm thinking about doing this
way my next CD, because jazz is the basis I come from as a
guitar player. I think about the music I've made so far in
my CD's, and I see that my original drive for playing music
comes from pop music, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi
Hendrix and Cream and Stevie Wonder... My compositions tend
to be more like pop, but my guitar playing completely comes
from this Wes Montgomery-Pat Martino-George Benson-Joe Pass
jazz guitar playing. So most of the time my records end up
being more in the pop-jazz direction which you know, but in
this point I would like to move in the direction of something
more acoustic, more spontaneous and more straight-ahead, although
it won't be a be bop record.
ARTURO MORA: Have you already chosen the musicians
to play with you in that future record?
CHUCK LOEB: Not yet.
ARTURO MORA: Which will be the criteria to choose
CHUCK LOEB: I think they will obviously have
to be musicians that are able to play in the straight-ahead
field, but I think they also have to be musicians that understand
where I come from as a composer, someone who's aware of pop
and rock and R&b but still are great jazz players. If
I think of people that come to mind, for example, John Patitucci,
who I've worked with many times in my other CD's, would be
a great guy, because he really plays the two styles perfectly,
and understands them. The drummer must be more difficult.
ARTURO MORA: Perfect. What about the new Metro
recording, Music Box?
CHUCK LOEB: We have the recording completed,
now we're just waiting to do the mix. We're trying to get
it released by the end of this year or the beginning of 2008.
There's a new bassist in the band, which is Will Lee, an old
friend of ours. It was pretty fun recording.
ARTURO MORA: You've played in many sideman situations,
with people like Jim Hall, Stan Getz or Steps Ahead. Which
one did you enjoy the most?
CHUCK LOEB: I have to say that Steps Ahead,
from the musical standpoint. Personally, to be involved with
Michael [Brecker] on such a regular basis, was very inspiring
and a great learning experience for me. He was a guy that,
when he was playing every day he had an incredible amount
of intensity. But also the fact that it was like what I told
before, there was people that were round musicians. Mike Mainieri
is another example of a guy who's a composer, arranger, great
player and a producer. Michael as well, Victor Bailey as well,
Peter Erskine too. It was like playing in a band of producers.
ARTURO MORA: Are you disciplined when you compose?
CHUCK LOEB: Yes and no. I've though a lot about
this recently 'cause my daughter, who's 20 years old, is now
very involved in composing and writing songs as a singer and
songwriter, and we talk about how it works, and I think that
there's two different things that happen, two or three: one
is that a song might just pop into your head, and to me that's
the best, when you just have this idea and you have to write
it down in a piece of paper or going to record it immediately.
But also things come from playing the guitar, and playing
an interesting progression and the melody comes out of your
fingers, and then you take it and work on it, that's more
disciplined. Or the other thing [Chuck laughs], good for composing,
is a call from the producer [laughs]. Somebody calls and says:
"There's a new Spyro Gyra record and we need some songs,
and we need them by Thursday". Then you get disciplined
very quickly. [laughs]
ARTURO MORA: I guess so. What music are you
listening to at the moment?
CHUCK LOEB: There's a guy I like very much,
you know I'm still a fan of pop music, and there's a guy called
John Mayer, he's a guitarist and a singer and a songwriter,
he's pretty well known in the States, and I really love his
music, it's great to listen to. The other kind of music that
I listen to in a regular basis comes from Brazil. From some
reason the music from there always seems to touch my heart
in a certain way.
ARTURO MORA: And talking about guitar, which
current guitar players do you enjoy the most?
CHUCK LOEB: I've been listening to Ben Monder,
and the other person who's influenced me a lot over the years
is pianist Brad Mehldau. I find his music, not all of it,
but some of it, very inspiring.
ARTURO MORA: Which were your major influences
when you started playing?
CHUCK LOEB: Originally it was Jimi Hendrix,
Eric Clapton and the Beatles, and Stevie Wonder, and then,
once I began to play jazz it was Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino,
George Benson, John McLaughlin and Joe Pass. And then later
Pat Metheny became a very important influence.
ARTURO MORA: Great. Anything else you'd like
CHUCK LOEB: Well, about the concert that's coming
up in Spain, it's a very interesting band to check out, because
it's a mix of very different kinds of personalities and styles,
so I would just say to the audience to come in and enjoy the
shows and have a good time.
Text © 2007
Chuck Loeb Photographs by John Secoges