Loeb who thrilled jazzists for decades

Charles Samuel “Chuck” Loeb was an American jazz guitarist. PHOTO | COURTESY
Charles Samuel “Chuck” Loeb was an American jazz guitarist. PHOTO | COURTESY  

One of the most accomplished figures in contemporary jazz music Chuck Loeb died last Monday, July 31 at the age of 61.

Loeb, who had been undergoing cancer treatment for several years, had an extensive career over four decades of recording and performing.

Besides his solo repertoire of more than 20 albums, this prolific musician was also a member of the popular jazz quartet Fourplay.

Loeb was a virtuoso guitarist, composer, arranger and producer with a sterling discography as an individual and with various groups. Even those who may not be jazz aficionados will have heard his work as a composer of top film scores and TV soundtracks.

Born on December 7, 1955 as Charles Samuel Loeb, the New York native started playing the guitar at age 11 and became interested in jazz while in his teens.  

His main influences were jazz guitarists like Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Pat Martino.

After graduating from high school, he studied guitar along with music composition and arrangement at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston, US. This is the same institution that has historically produced jazz luminaries like Quincy Jones, Branford Marsalis and Sadao Watanabe.

Loeb left Berklee in 1976 and joined the professional ranks playing guitar as sideman for jazz greats such as Chico Hamilton, Ray Barreto, Hubert Laws and Freddie Hubbard.

In 1979, Loeb joined the American saxophonist Stan Getz’s band as the main composer of most of the group’s repertoire. He eventually became the musical director of the band, performing at some of the world’s major festivals, and jazz venues.

After leaving Getz’s band, Loeb returned to recording, composing and producing albums, soundtracks, television themes and jingles.

In 1985, he joined the group Steps Ahead, which included saxophonist Michael Brecker and bassist Victor Bailey, another Berklee alumni who in June this year played at a show in Nairobi.

First album

Loeb’s first solo album “My Shining Hour” was released in 1988, followed a year later by “Magic Finger”

His breakthrough as a solo artist was with the 1996 album “The Magic Inside” whose title song held the top spot in the US contemporary jazz charts for six weeks.

Along with his solo career, Loeb also played with the jazz-fusion band Metro from 1994 to 2002 and the Fantasy Band from 1993 to 1997.

In 2010, he replaced Larry Carlton in the acclaimed group Fourplay joining a team of some of the world’s best musicians: Bob James, Nathan East and Harvey Mason. He was also a member of the trio Jazz Funk Soul alongside Everette Harp and Jeff Lober. Their latest album “More Serious Business” came out in 2016.

Loeb also recorded two collaborative albums with saxophonist Eric Marienthal, “It’s Love” in 2012 and “Bridges” in 2015.

His last solo album “Unspoken” was nominated for a 2017 Grammy Award in the Best Contemporary Instrumental Album category. This was the third Grammy nomination in his career.

Loeb composed music for TV shows notably the theme music for CNN Headline News while his film scores include top Hollywood movies like The Untouchables”, “You’ve got mail” and Hitch”.

In addition to his career as a guitarist and producer, Loeb was also active as a music teacher on the online portal ArtistWorks, his contribution to the society that offered him a chance to live his dream of becoming a musician. 

He was married to Carmen Cuesta a vocalist and songwriter from Madrid, Spain and the couple has collaborated on several musical projects. His daughters Lizzy and Christina Loeb are also professional musicians who have contributed to their father’s albums.

A statement on the official website of the band Fourplay described Loeb as ‘a supremely talented musician, who was much more than that as a human being’.