The Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest lost a dear friend when Chuck Loeb passed away July 31 at 61 after quietly and courageously battling cancer for two years.
Loeb was much more than just a fabulous guitarist with incredible musicianship – the consummate arranger and composer. He also was a wonderful human being who was fun-loving and friendly, much admired for his humility, kindness, generosity and class.
He exuded a lyrical grace as a man and a musician, making him a beloved, prolific and peerless performer at Berks Jazz Fest.
Chuck Loeb may be gone — but he will never be forgotten by his Berks Jazz Fest family of volunteers and fans.
When the fest family gathers each spring in Reading, Berks Jazz Fest will remember and celebrate Chuck’s life for his musical spirit always will be with us.
The Remembering Chuck Loeb concert during the 2018 Berks Jazz Fest as presented by Berks Arts Council on Sunday, April 8, at 7 p.m. at the Santander Performing Arts Center will be stocked with an extraordinary array of accomplished artists.
Paying tribute to their friend and colleague will be musical director Eric Marienthal, Rick Braun, Bob James, Nathan East, Harvey Mason, Kirk Whalum, Will Lee, Michael Franks, Dave Koz, Everette Harp, Jeff Lorber, Randy Brecker, Paul Jackson Jr., Chieli Minucci, Nick Colionne, Kim Waters, Gerald Veasley, Bill Evans, Mitch Forman, Brian Bromberg, Andy Snitzer, Lionel Cordew, Ron Jenkins, David Charles, Matt King and The Berks Horns.
Also gracing the stage will be Chuck’s wife Carmen and his daughters Christina and Lizzy Loeb.
A portion of the proceeds will establish the Chuck Loeb Scholarship Fund.
“The all-star tribute to Chuck is going to be the cornerstone event for the fest,” said John Ernesto, fest general manager. “It is going to be a celebration of Chuck’s amazing musical legacy, including his many contributions to the festival.
Loeb made in his first Berks Jazz Fest appearance in 1999.
His debut as an opening act was anything but normal.
The headlining artist arrived at the Philadelphia airport ahead of schedule on show day. Instead of waiting for his fest pickup, he decided to rent a car and find his way to Reading in that pre-GPS, cellphone era. Not surprisingly, he got lost in the Amish countryside and was going to arrive late.
When Loeb was nearing the end of his set, they gave him the “stretch” signal. He simply nodded, smiled and kept playing for the appreciative fans until the headliner finally showed up. Following the unexpected extended show, festival officials thanked Loeb for improvising and saving the day. He never asked for anything in return. When offered, he refused.
From that day, Loeb headlined shows at the Berks Jazz Fest every year through 2017. Loeb and Ernesto would create unique concerts that would be presented only at Berks Jazz Fest.
Loeb also was the musical director of the annual Berks All-Star Jam, turning it from a loose jam session into a well-produced concert without losing any of its improvisational characteristics.
Berks Bop Night with Loeb serving as musical director also became a festival fixture. Bop is a jazz style that emphasizes the inventiveness of the musicians – perfect for the creative Loeb. Berks Bop Night was intended by Ernesto and Loeb to showcase the chops of contemporary jazz artists. It has done exactly that.
Last April, Loeb’s final Berks appearance featured Lionel Cordew, David Mann, Ron Jenkins, Charles Blenzig, Bobby Lyle and The Berks Horns. It also was his final live performance.
Loeb would be a part of nearly 40 performances at Berks Jazz Fest.
Loeb was a crisply proficient guitarist who progressed from a sideman and session stalwart to a prominent solo artist and collaborator.
Loeb was a member of two popular bands working along the seam of jazz pop and fusion: Steps Ahead, which brought him aboard in the mid-1980s, and Fourplay, which he joined in 2010. He also was known for his association with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz and for a slate of commercial work that spanned movie soundtracks and network scores and themes.
As a guitarist, Loeb balanced brisk fluency with cool restraint, drawing not only from early heroes like Jimi Hendrix but also from jazz lodestars like Jim Hall, with whom he studied. Like Hall, Loeb had an abundance of technique that he often held in reserve. His ability to convey emotional connection with a melodic line, through a round, clean tone, made him a worthy heir to a smooth jazz progenitor like George Benson.