When you can replace Larry Carlton, as Chuck Loeb did in the group Fourplay, you needn't hire a PR team to laud your virtues, they're automatically self-evident. Of course, hailing from copious session work and residency in the great Steps Ahead band doesn't hurt either, and Loeb has, beyond all that, released 16 CDs prior to Plain 'n' Simple, so we aren't talking anything less than 'seasoned vet' here, and every cut of this delicious trio disc embeds that in glowing terms. Like too few fellow axeman, Loeb carries on a love affair with the organ and this time has co-featured the muscular Pat Bianchi, who steps to the front blazingly in the opener D.I.G. and thenceforward.
Chuck himself has taken to a Grant Green / Pat Martino figuration throughout Plain, which of course means echos of various stellar players such as Burrell and Montgomery, and then the later fusioneers (Coryell and dem boyz). Organeleptic shows the lattermost quite clearly, Bianchi and Loeb interlocking as in the old Abercrombie/Hammer or Bolin / Hammer combinations of days gone by. Red Suede Shoes, on the other hand, is a Crusaders number (and we remember the Crusaders axeman, don't we?—of course we do: Carlton!) with Jimmy Smith (Bianchi) sitting in. Then, referring back to Fourplay, no less a drummer than the famed Harvey Mason, one of the most in-demand percussionists extent, sits the drums on almost all tracks and more than makes up for the absence of a bass player, being a one-man rhythm section who nonetheless manages to make his kit a musical machine in complex conversation with team-mates. Mason has always been a major exponent, but I suspect fans will gain a new appreciation of his talent and magnitude.
The CD's title cut is a balmily beautiful latinate number dripping with Gil, Bonfa, Costas, even some Szabo, and imbued with a luxurious simplicity leading into Caetano's E Com Esse Que Voue Eu, sung by Loeb's wife Carmen in a charming rendition sparkling with breathy sensuality and tropical hedonism. His daughter, Lizzy, renders an extremely interesting and much more passionate reading of Skylark, alternating between pining girl-next-door and knowing torch singer: a little Randy Crawford here, a bit of Kimiko Itoh there, and a whole lot of herself in a psycho-emotional plaint of aching need. Throughout Plain 'n' Simple, Chuck returns to basics with a verve and strength that may not have been quite apparent heretofore in a career celebrated for its manifold virtues. He has, I think, come back home to the influences that made him and, like Grant Geissman, is waxing in his powers in a fashion that's heralding a second—or third or fourth—renaissance in the man's evolution as an artist.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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