Though he occasionally branches out into other styles, Chuck Loeb is at heart, a pop-oriented smooth jazz guitarist. Presence finds Loeb smack in the middle of his comfort zone. "Llevame" adds some Latin percussion and murmured female vocals, "The Western Sky" incorporates a vaguely new age synth wash, and "The Music Outside" flirts a bit with quiet storm R&B, but at heart, this is utterly straightforward smooth jazz with Loeb's laid-back, tasty soloing front and center. Even the pair of pop covers, Steely Dan's "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" and James Taylor's "Shed a Little Light," are transformed into showcases for Loeb's inimitable style. Unapologetically mellow and buffed to a high-sheen gloss, Presence is smooth jazz for folks who think they just don't make smooth jazz records like this anymore.
by Stewart Mason