It has been said that in times of peril, we most often find our inner strengths and subsequently our inner selves. That appears to have been the predicator for the latest album from one of smooth jazz music’s mainstays Chuck Loeb.
It was during his convalescence following an illness and surgery that Loeb claims he was able to reawaken his most ‘fundamental feelings about music’, both inspiring him and elevating his inner being during a tense period of his life.
This re-connect with his passion sowed the seeds for Loeb’s latest project Unspoken, an 11 song release that garnered him a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album. Unspoken unites Loeb with some of his closest musical associates including Jeff Lorber and Everette Harp (who, along with Loeb, comprise the recently formed and highly popular smooth jazz collaborative effort JazzFunkSoul), Brian Culbertson, Nathan East, Andy Snitzer and Eric Marienthal, among others, whose talents add superb multi-dimensional sound and enjoyment.
If it’s variety that satisfies your discerning tastes, Unspoken delivers a superb variety of contemporary, modern fusion, and neo-traditional jazz enjoyment. The premier single Cotton Club is an exhilarating and energetic display of musicianship with co-composer Jeff Lorber, and rightly so, as Loeb dedicates this #1 song on the Wave.fm Top 10 to the Cotton Club Tokyo, which he refers to as his favourite jazz club in the world. Natural Light brings an unrelenting driving percussive sound behind Loeb’s soothing melodies while Snitzer’s alto sax adds flavour to this track. The title song itself brings peace and calmness with soothing melodies at the guitar hands of Loeb, and the piano fingers of Culbertson. The fusion style Treetops is a collaboration of saxman Marienthal, and this brilliant performance is dedicated to the legacy of Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorious and all other members of the revered and trend setting fusion legends of Weather Report.
Love and appreciation of family doesn’t go unnoticed on Unspoken with daughter Christina’s song writing contribution on the gorgeous and gentle "Via Verde", and not to be outdone, daughter Lizzy Cuesta’s composition of "Way Up High", both of which include wife Carmen Cuesta’s sultry vocals. The latter is a soft and breezy, Latin jazz influenced song of after-hours romance and exoticism.
The album title itself was something I found to be perplexing but Loeb offered up the most simplistic explanation on its meaning. He says ‘Some of the most moving, inspiring and messages take a form that is completely nonverbal; unspoken. These can be simple acts of kindness, thoughts, and prayers –and of course music’. Loeb goes on to say “Throughout history, instrumental music has been a healing force, inspiring brotherhood, love, friendship, hope, strength, and unity’ while adding that he has been fortunate to witness this firsthand throughout his worldly travels.
For an album titled Unspoken, no words could be more truthfully spoken.
Reviewed by Stu Berketo