Fourplay: Newest Member Chuck Loeb
|November 1, 2010||By: Melissa Berry Los Angeles,CA|
“Let’s Touch the Sky”
Where does “smooth jazz” come from? How does it happen? I got great answers to these questions in a recent conversation with Chuck Loeb who is currently a member of Fourplay, one of our most distinguished “smooth jazz” sounds for several decades. The conversation wasn’t about that ephemeral muse -inspiration. It was about the hands on process, the isolated experiences in life that create a lifelong connection with something that relies on you to actualize it. It was how Chuck Loeb, the accomplished musician, evolved from a 6th grade Boy Scout, bored and lonely at summer camp. With only a guitar recently given to him by his parents, he’d rather try and compose a song than be in knot tying class.
That’s the story. Scout’s honor. Chuck said he went to Boy Scout camp and wasn’t in the Boy Scout frame of mind, so he hung out with his guitar. When he came home, he shyly played what he’d composed for his parents. They realized they had a musician in the family, although no one else was musical, and that was the beginning.
They liked what they heard and he like getting parental approval. Win/win situation then and a win/win situation for us now.
Loeb later went to Berklee College of music to study composition for several years and then on to New York. His career became musically diverse and at the moment includes composition, teaching, producing, besides performing with Fourplay. Couldn’t help but ask him at which one does he shine, but which one personally gives him the most pleasure. He paused and said that no one had ever really asked him that question. Didn’t take him all that long to answer though. It’s still composition and arranging. He discussed how performances are fleeting, but composition is forever and continuously up for interpretation as performance.
I asked about the arrangement for Anita Baker’s track of “You’re My Thrill” on Fourplay’s current album Let’s Touch the Sky. They did the whole thing and had it recorded before she even stepped foot in the studio which is certainly not the conventional way of working. He paused a moment, and then asked if I really wanted to hear how they did it? Of course! Well, they all went into the studio with their chord cheat sheets and pencils, and then started playing. As they played, they made alterations; they penciled in the changes, notations and scribbled notes in the margins. Then they laid down the completed piece, which was only missing the vocal. That was it. And they had a great time. And so did Anita Baker when she came into the studio. It’s all there and it is just the way you hear it on the album.
Chuck mentioned earlier that his fellow Fourplay member, Bob James, recently described the group as “Seductive, Romantic, Eclectic and Democratic” and that equals the sound of Fourplay. You don’t much think of the word democratic when you think about music, being in the studio, arrangements, or record producers, but Fourplay’s new album is a democracy of musicality. Not the ordinary collaboration, but four musicians putting pencil to paper in the studio and creating something new out of something that already exists.
In the course of conversation we kept coming back to the sound of Fourplay as being adventurous, interactive, and sensuous which all create a mood. After a while, the word “sexy” just had to be included in “mood.” “Sexy”, that smooth yet possibly playful and frisky thing we’re not supposed to talk about in polite society. “Sexy” that’s represented on those old 50’s jazz record album covers of a smoking cigarette left to burn out in an ash tray and a martini glass next to it; implying everything with the inference to be yours and yours alone.
If you don’t believe me, just go listen to Fourplay’s newest CD “Let’s Touch the Sky”; you’ll feel like you have afterwards. It’s a "Love TKO" just like the song on the album.
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