This week, in 1990, the Blue Pacific recording by Michael Franks hit #1 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart. It was really my first exposure to him. I recall that his voice surprised me. It wouldn’t be until later that I gained appreciation for the wittiness and uniqueness of his lyrics. I think I remember some excitement about Walter Becker producing some tracks. The late Steely Dan co-founder (Becker passed away Sept. 3, 2017) produced three of the ten tracks, with Jeff Lorber and Tommy LiPuma dividing up the remainder. It was the first track, “The Art of Love,” that grabbed my attention – a good catchy uptempo track. I’m pretty sure we put that into rotation on the radio station’s late night jazz show immediately.
Michael shared his memory, as well as a photo, of working with Walter Becker, saying “I’m so grateful I got to know and work with Walter- he was a gentleman, an incredibly talented musician and producer and a terrific storyteller.”
Contemporary jazz lost one of its great contributors on July 31, 2017 when Chuck Loeb passed away. Loeb had been on the scene for decades and was one of those guys who could compose and produce just as well as he could play guitar. Whenever I saw his name on the credits of a song, I knew it had a higher chance of being something I’d enjoy. It would be quality.
The number of contemporary jazz recordings he’s been a part of must be in the hundreds. I remember a time in the ’90s when every CD that came to the radio station was produced by either Loeb or Paul Brown. In addition to a longtime solo career and many collaborations, he worked with Stan Getz and played with bands like Steps Ahead, Metro and Fourplay. The latter posted: “We, The Fourplay family, salute our fallen hero Chuck Loeb … Our band member, our dear friend, our soulmate, our musical composer, an incredible human being, husband and father. Thank you for sharing your love, life and music with us.”
Chuck had battled cancer for several years. He is survived by his wife Carmen Cuesta Loeb and daughters Lizzy and Christina.
The following were the top-selling contemporary jazz recordings in early July of 1990:
- Stanley Jordan – Cornucopia
- Najee – Tokyo Blue
- Basia – London Warsaw New York
- Patti Austin – Love Is Gonna Getcha
- Alex Bugnon – Head Over Heels
- Spyro Gyra featuring Jay Beckenstein – Fast Forward
- Dianne Reeves – Never Too Far
- Jonathan Butler – Deliverance
- George Howard – Personal
- Lonnie Liston Smith – Love Goddess
While researching jazz magazines for something else, I ran across this 1993 advertisement from the MoJazz label. MoJazz wanted to get your attention so they did a Model of the Month.
“Alicia is from Los Angeles, CA. This 5’10” Sagittarian enjoys horseback riding, stimulating conversation and romantic evenings listening to JAZZ. Her favorite Jazz Artists are ERIC REED and WAYNE JOHNSON.”
Sex sells and a barely dressed woman always gets my attention. But there is nothing about the new recordings from Eric Reed or Wayne Johnson except that Alicia likes them. Would Alicia go out with me if I bought those releases since they are her favorite? Is Alicia the model girlfriend of the ad designer and trying to get her noticed? Where is Alicia today? Does she still spend her evenings listening to jazz?
MoJazz was Motown’s jazz label that launched with the debut recording of Norman Brown’s Just Between Us in 1992.
Chick Corea turns 76 today. It’s hard to believe. I met Chick just a few weeks ago at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival. I don’t know many 76 year-old people but Chick seems to be a lot younger. He doesn’t sprint across the stage or anything but his fingers are as nimble as anyone’s and his enjoyment at playing is apparent. His constant drive to explore jazz, and often push it forward, is one of the reasons he is a jazz legend.
I helped the City of Kansas City, Missouri’s Office of Culture and Creative Services with this video interview at the Festival. Hope you enjoy.