Chuck Loeb was proud to be a self-taught guitarist who was performing by the time he was 11 and working professionally at age 13.
“By the time I was 15 or 16, I heard some jazz music. I was in New York and was in a good area for hearing stuff. I heard Wes Montgomery and John McLaughlin, and went from that into all sorts of other jazz pianists,” the native New Yorker recalled.
“I was like, ‘OK, I’d better get a teacher.’ “
Now 59, Loeb said he felt a connection with jazz that he didn’t with other types of music.
“Once that door was open, it clicked so deeply in my soul that it was the beginning of a journey that’s continuing even as we speak,” he said.
That journey brings him to the Quad-Cities, where he and pianist Bobby Lyle will collaborate Saturday night for the annual Smooth Jazz Valentine’s Concert at the Redstone Room in the River Music Experience, downtown Davenport.
Loeb is a member of the jazz quartet Fourplay, which is recording its 25th-anniversary album next week, as well as being a collaborator with Jeff Lorber and Everette Harp in a group called Jazz Funk Soul, which was up for best contemporary instrumental album at last weekend’s Grammys.
He said his style came from learning classic rock such as Jimi Hendrix, Cream, The Beatles and Rolling Stones, and then getting into jazz.
“There was an inherent fusion of styles in my music amalgam at that time anyway. What happened was that my playing, once I discovered jazz, was very much in the jazz fold,” he said. “The remnants of rock ‘n’ roll were always there, but my linear playing and my playing in general was jazz because that’s what my tendency is.”
As a composer, he said his music tends to be more “pop-ish and melodic,” and it’s been recorded by the likes of Bob Dylan, Carly Simon, Johnny Mathis, Art Garfunkel and Jennifer Hudson.
“It’s a taste that’s totally in my DNA,” Loeb said. “I was so moved and fell so in love with the music of singer-songwriters and pop-rock composers.”
(Loeb, by the way, is no relation to singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb, nor her brother, Quad-City Symphony Orchestra executive director Benjamin Loeb.)
That pop mentality, he said, has him grateful to be labeled in the smooth jazz genre.
“There were guys who were writing tunes that could be Stevie Wonder songs or for Grover Washington, but what they were playing on top of it was jazz,” he said. “That was perfect for me, and it was kind of a natural place for me to fall into.”