For the past 15 years or so, Chuck Loeb has been a first-call session guitarist and producer, as well as recording and performing under his own name and with the bands Petite Blond, Metro, and the Fantasy Band. His earlier touring gigs included Chico Hamilton, Hubert Laws, Ray Baretto, Stan Getz, and Steps Ahead. So it's fair to say that he has experience in a wide range of musical settings. On his latest release, In A Heartbeat, you can hear the breadth of his musical experience expressed throughout the program.
Some of the tunes are standard contemporary fare: nice melodies, fairly basic chord structure and rhythms, but with tasty solos by Loeb and a bevy of big-name guests. Loeb's full, warm guitar sound is like a duck floating on a pond - smooth and serene above water, yet paddling energetically beneath the surface. But there's much more diversity and variety here. The second tune opens and closes with some relaxed noodling on Rhodes from Mike Ricchiuti (called "Mingling with Mike"), but the body of the song is a medley of funky R&B fun - a blending of two tunes called "Rhythm Ace" and "Funky Stuff." Alto saxophonist Andy Snitzer and tenor man David Mann get down with some meaty solos, and the in-the-pocket rhythms, unison sax-guitar-bass lines, horn section, and earthy Rhodes and organ provide a cookin' groove. The "Sway" is a straight-ahead jazz shuffle. "Big Time" has darker chords and a more edgy, hard-driving intensity; Andy Snitzer on tenor is grittier and more intense than we usually hear from him. The tender ballad "Billy's Song" is inspired by and dedicated to a friend who recently passed away unexpectedly.
On most instrumentalist's CDs, the guest vocal spots are often included for the sake of commercial appeal and are more of a disruption to the rest of the program, especially when they suffer from trite, sappy lyrics. Such is never the case with Chuck Loeb's CDs, as they always include the vocal talents of his wife, Carmen Cuesta. She's a welcome part of each release, and merits attention in her own right. (Record labels, are you listening?) The CD's title cut introduces vocalist Brandon Singleton, whose gentle tenor lovingly interprets the optimisticly romantic lyrics. (Shanachie 5078)