As its title suggests, Between 2 Worlds finds guitarist Chuck Loeb's sublimated split personality at last openly revealed. A household name in smooth jazz circles, the former Steps Ahead luminary this time throws the dice with a program heavier on the straight-ahead jazz component that composes the core of his musical upbringing. Does this project mark the dawn of a new beginning, a passage to this other world? Only time will tell.
Customarily dressing the table with a set of his glossy, high-sheen wares, the second half of the program finds the agile guitarist delving into some more substantiated, post-bop-type purlieus, not without the same unbridled enthusiasm and passion that characterizes his pop-jazz work. That said, like those that preceded him in such indissoluble mixing of genres (and aesthetics)Lee Ritenour being a rather convenient comparisonthe final product unfortunately falls flat in the face of artistically more focused covenants. Too much of this, not enough of that, the apanage of the MOR modicum.
From the funky, bluesy stroll of the Robben Ford-tinged "Oh No You Didn't" (featuring daughter Lizzy's soulful vocals) things take a radical turn as Dave Weckl's rollicking kit work introduces the supercharged, intervallic theme of "Let's Play." A brisk minor blues with booming chordal interjections, the piece emphatically celebrates the precise, George Benson/Pat Martino/Mike Stern school of picking.
Halting a brief moment for wife-vocalist Carmen Cuesta's grazing Tom Jobim's tranquil "So Tinha De Que Ser Com Voce," Loeb then launches into the open-strings voicings that open "The Great Hall," a luminous waltz recalling John Abercrombie's mid-70's to mid-80's work that most probably got its title after his former teacher, the great Jim Hall. Though the latter composition is rich enough to endure repeated listening, other tracks may, to some, defy the threshold of tolerance namely, "Hiram," a dedication to the late Hiram Bullock, the title track, and the closing sleeper, "Early Turns To Late."
A deft technician with years studio experience behind him, Loeb demonstrates with Between 2 Worlds that his straight-ahead fretwork certainly needs to be reckon with, championed even. But, whether learned jazz listeners will buy into such disparate programming remains improbable.
Let’s Go; Hiram; Mittens; Between 2 Worlds; Oh No You Didn’t; Let’s Play; So Tinha De Que Ser Com Voce; The Great Hall; Mean Old Man; 360; Early Turns to Late.
Chuck Loeb: guitar; Carmen Cuesta: vocals (2, 4, 7); Lizzy Loeb: vocals (5); Eric Marienthal: saxophones, flute; Till Bronner: trumpet (3); Nathan Eklund: trumpet (1), trombone (1); Brian Culbertson: trombone solo (1); Pat Bergeson: harmonica (11); Will Lee: bass (1, 3, 5), fretless bass melody (2); Gerald Veasley: bass (2, 6); Dieter Ilg: bass (8-11); Dave Weckl: drums (1-3, 5-7); Wolfgang Haffner: drums (4, 8-11); Bashiri Johnson: percussion (1-3); David Charles: percussion (5, 7, 10, 11).