Chuck Loeb is a busy man. Being lead guitarist of smooth jazz supergroup Fourplay, touring regularly, and composing for film and television (who else could claim the CNN theme and Turner & Hooch on the same resume?), doesn’t leave much time for solo work. Plain ‘n’ Simple might be seen as a deep breath, a chance to relax for a little while and just play. It’s easy to imagine this album, with its noodling guitar and splashy cymbals, as Loeb sitting back on the porch with a guitar and a few friends, playing for the sake of playing.
From the lackadaisical “D.I.G. (Deep Inner Groove)” to the Madeleine Peyrouxesque “E Com Esse Que Eu Vou” to the whispery final track “The Hello”, Plain ‘n’ Simple exemplifies its name and describes Loeb’s guitar work. The star of the show offers few moments of scene-stealing prowess, content to toss out casual bluesy phrases and let the top-notch personnel—Harvey Mason, Nathan Eklund, and Will Lee, among others—take the lead. However, despite a dozen world-class musicians, Plain ‘n’ Simple is just too subdued. It’s like these tracks are siblings tiptoeing around the house trying not to wake their father. They have a good time together, but there’s only so much you can do without making a little ruckus.