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Great loss for the Jazz world

By jdclyde ·
Guitarist Joe Beck dies at 62

Those that have joined in on the FNM posts will have heard some of his music posted by me. He has worked with some of the best of the best in the Jazz world, even if many of you do not know the name.

Two of his pieces.

Never know how long these links are good, so I posted the writeup.

When Joe Beck played guitar, his sound all but shone like the sun, like museum-piece gold.

"He was a really great guitar player," John Scofield, one of Beck's peers in the jazz world, said Monday from his home in Katonah, N.Y. "He could do anything on the guitar."

"He could play any song in any key," said John Abercrombie, another guitar great who toured Europe playing duets with Beck as recently as December. "You'd ask him what key he wanted to play a song in and he'd say 'It doesn't matter.'"

Joe Beck, who lived in Woodbury, died last week of lung cancer at a hospice in Danbury, a few days before his 63rd birthday.

In his life, he played and recorded with an extraordinary range of musicians, including Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, Stan Getz, Paul Desmond and Antonio Carlos Jobim. He was the first guitar player to record with Miles Davis and one of the players who created the jazz-rock fusion of the late 1960s and '70s.

He was also an accomplished arranger who produced albums for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Esther Phillips and Gloria Gaynor.

He was a successful jingle writer, too.

When he wasn't playing jazz, he worked as a studio musician, recording with Paul Simon, Richie Havens, Laura Nyro and James Brown. .

And when he wasn't playing -- and sometimes on stage between songs, when he was -- he was a tremendously engaging human being. With some caveats.

"If he liked you, he was great," Scofield said. "If he didn't, watch

"He had this very acerbic, dry wit," said Abercrombie, of Putnam Valley, N.Y.. "I totally related to it."

"I toured with him for years," said jazz flutist Ali Ryerson, of Brookfield. "You learned who he liked and who he didn't like. He could be intimidating. But I think he was the funniest cat I ever met."

Beck, who was born in Philadelphia, grew up on the West Coast. Largely self-taught as a guitarist -- he said in one interview that he had six lessons when he was a child and learned the names of the six strings on a guitar -- he hit New York City in the 1960s as a teenager who had both the talent and good luck to fall in with good people.

He was soon playing with some of the best jazz musicians in the city.

Scofield said Beck was one of the few jazz guitarists of that time who could play rock 'n' roll and was one of the first musicians on the scene to conceive of melding the two styles.

"He was very underrated, but he was very important," Scofield said.

When Abercrombie was just starting out, he heard Beck play.

"I thought he was the Bill Evans of the guitar," Abercrombie said, comparing Beck to one of the greatest of all jazz pianists.

Beck dropped out of the music scene twice -- both times to run a dairy farm in New York. In the 1990s, he returned to music full time, concentrating on jazz.

Performing with Ali Ryerson in 1997, he heard her play the alto flute and came up with a novel tuning for his guitar that matched her instrument's darker tones. Martin Guitars now sells a Joe Beck Alto Guitar.

"He created the alto guitar," Ryerson said.

Ryerson's father, Art Ryerson, was a great guitarist of the early days of jazz, playing with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.

"My father liked Joe's playing, which mattered a lot to me," she said. "Joe could do something very few guitarists could do. He truly orchestrated his playing when he accompanied you. That's rare."

Abercrombie, who knew Beck professionally, was surprised when Beck called him a few years ago and suggested they get together to play.

"I knew him as a musician, but we got to be friends," Abercrombie said.

Like Scofield, Abercrombie said Beck could be funny and savvy and generous with people he liked. But he said you also had to know Beck to fully catch on to him.

"He'd tell me 'You know that record you made? It was an almost perfect record,'" Abercrombie said. "He would never tell me what it needed to be a perfect record.

"I realized after a while it was his way of saying that he liked my playing."


There will be a memorial service for Joe Beck this morning at 11 in First Congregational Church of Woodbury, 214 Main St. South.

Contact Robert Miller


or at (203) 731-3345.
Here is a partial list of the musicians Joe Beck performed and recorded with: Jazz composers and arrangers Duke Ellington and Gil Evans Trumpeter Miles Davis Saxophonists Paul Desmond, Joe Farrell, Dave Sanborn and Stan Getz Brazilian bossa nova composer Antonio Carlos Jobim Jazz orchestras led by Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman Guitarists Larry Coryell and John Abercrombie Flutist Ali Ryerson Pop musicians Laura Nyro, Paul Simon, Richie Havens and James Brown

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It started about a decade ago for me

by jdclyde In reply to Great loss for the Jazz w ...

I was out helping take care of Gram, who was very sick. All the relatives were going out in shifts to help out, and I was there with my Aunt.

She listened to the music I had with me and said she knew of someone (who was a close personal friend) that she thought I would find interesting.

We drove around Mesa AZ until we found the "Friends" cd by Joe Beck. I was hooked.

She took the sleeve back to New York with her, and he was nice enough to sign it for me. "Thanks for listening, Joe".

Over the next 10 years, I have picked up several of his CD's, and was actually listening to his "The Journey" cd when I heard the news. Kind of fitting, huh?

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WOW great story

by Oz_Media In reply to It started about a decade ...

nice one, JD!

I know its irrelevant but SnakeEyes just hit some good Billboard numbers in Eastern Europe and Japan with their first CD (1999-2000 if I still remember correctly), "The Journey Begins". Ironic? Probably not, but a funny coincidence all the same, gotta love the back catalogue.

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RIP, Joe.

by boxfiddler Moderator In reply to Great loss for the Jazz w ...

Thanks for the heads up, JD. Music lost a little with his passing.

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Time to dig out the vinyl again....sigh

by Oz_Media In reply to Great loss for the Jazz w ...

I have an old EP of him playing with Buddy Rich banging away on the drums.

I guess your post is just a bit late though, or did you just hear about it? He actually died a couple of weeks ago. Neil Peart was on TV talkign about him, apprently Peart was a huge fan (Buddy Rich is also Peart's hero).

In fact, I think that Peart has been SO focused on jazz for the last decade, I wonder if he can still play the OLD Rush tunes with syncopated/rock rhythms?

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Just heard about it

by jdclyde In reply to Time to dig out the vinyl ...

I knew he had been on the edge for a while.

most people have my initial reaction when asked about joe beck. "don't you mean jeff beck?"

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Another fine man indeed

by Oz_Media In reply to Just heard about it

Jeff Beck, the only reason I knew of Joe beck or ofund his music.

Had a friend who ran a collectors record store in the 80's. While looking for Jeff, he said, "have you heard Joe Beck?"

I was waiting for the lunchline when he pulled out an old demo disk of Joe Beck. He wouldn't see it to me but I did get a couple of singles and an LP.

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Years ago I caught an assignment to photograph a guitarist.

by sleepin'dawg In reply to Great loss for the Jazz w ...

I wasn't told who it was that I was supposed to photograph just "some guy named Bick or Beck". The assignment was in Toronto and I hoped it would be Joe Beck but couldn't be 100% sure, so I checked with a Toronto friend, Jeff Healy, himself a great guitarist and he demanded to be taken along on the shoot because he was a fan of Beck.

When we showed up I was totally blown away because the place was filled with a load of jazz greats, Joe Beck, Joe Pass, Pepper Adams, Milt Jackson, Chick Corea, Oscar Peterson as well as Tony Bennet, and I forget who the **** else although there were quite a few more. Jeff, being blind had to be taken around to meet everyone and he was truly in his element with them. Of course he was handed a guitar and one of the greatest things I've ever heard was him and Joe Beck, with some input from Pass, playing together for about 1/2 an hour. I grabbed my shots of Beck for my assignment as well as twenty more rolls for myself. When Jeff and I left after being there 12 hours we were each given a bag of cassets of all the sessions we had heard. They're raw, unedited and unpublished but some of the greatest music I've ever heard and no; they are not for sale. Not now, not ever.

I've been into jazz since I was 12 or 13 and had admired Joe Beck for some time but after that I became a real fan. I've been fotunate enough to have met most of these guys several times over the years, since then but Beck was special; we became friends and I've had him and Jeff to my place many times over the years, when they were in town. They're both gone now but I'll never forget them. Hmmm, think I'll load up my old Nakamichi. It's time for a glass or three of single malt and some Healy, Beck and Pass at the very least, one more time. In fact there will always be time for them, I don't even need to put on the tapes, they're recorded in my memory forever.

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Thanks for sharing that Dawg

by jdclyde In reply to Years ago I caught an ass ...

I got a very late start on jazz, and until my aunt got me that first beck cd, I thought jazz was "Kenny G". I had no idea what it could really by.

No one in my circles every listened to jazz, and after I got hooked, I had to listen alone.

Being in the school band and both playing brass instruments, my boys both appreciate Beck and his music.

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Track down some Chesky tracks

by Oz_Media In reply to Thanks for sharing that D ...

Do yourself a favour, find someChesky recordings. Arguably the greatest jazz recordings ever put on vinyl.

Just as Telarc is to the world of digital reproduction perfection, Chesky was for analogue (and then some!).

He recorded and produced some of the most incredible, dynamic recordings ever put on vinyl, SERIOUSLY, real audiophile tracks.

Chesky was an audiophile who made the most amazing sonic reproductions, I have some demos I use where you can hear the conductors suit rustle as he moves, you can here the flautists breath between notes, absolutely STUNNING reproduction that you can't stop listenting to, as you keep hearing something new each time.

He was very big on Jazz, moreso than classical (Telarc's claim to fame), due to the length of classical pieces.

If you download tunes, you can find a good FLAC or Chesky Audiophile track, or just dig deep in record stores or order online. NOTE: Online sales are actually quality vinyl too, not the wafer thin Warner Bros. 'Best of' versions.

or the "10 Best" audiophile reference sampler (good for getting your feet wet):

At first yuo may fine there is TOO much musical dynamic to it, or too many sounds that you normally can't hear, but you soon grow to hear just how poor others have been recorded. If you ever want to check tonal accuracy of your equiment, this is your key.

"We love Chesky he's our man, if he can't press it NOONE can!" YAAAAAAAY CHESKY!!!!!

okay it was a shameless plug; don't worry, no residuals for me on that one.

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they are not for sale. Not now, not ever.

by Oz_Media In reply to Years ago I caught an ass ...

Have you tried remastering and cleaning them up for your own enjoyment yet?

Would you be interested in sending me a short clip to see if you like the results?

Good quality? Nice separation? Really tight and dry sounding? drool.......

Didnt think so.

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