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Listen: “I Can’t Get Started”
Joe Beck – Get Me 5/4
O’s Notes: Joe Beck was a great musician who played all types of jazz from mainstream to fusion to bebop. This live recording was made in 2006, two years before he succumbed to lung cancer. Bassist Peter Barshay and drummer David Rokeach complete the seasoned trio. The program is all standards, timeless classics that Beck rebuffs to shine like new issues. Get Me is a solid encounter full of dazzling fretwork and warm sounds. There are thirteen selections highlighted by “Manha De Carnaval”, “You And The Night And the Music ” and “Tenderly”. But it is really unfair to single out tunes as these are ALL good!
D. Oscar Groomes
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This article appeared in the May issue of Jazz Inside Magazine
By: Scott Yanow
“One of the top guitarists of all time, Joe Beck was a master of subtle creativity. He had the knack for not only making every note count but every sound. It was not so much what he played as how he played it. He could play the same chord or single note several different ways depending on how it fit the song or how he felt during that moment.
Joe Beck, who was born in 1945, started playing the guitar when he was six after hearing Segovia perform on the radio. He was self-taught other than six guitar lessons. At 14 he was already playing professionally and he led his first trio immediately after graduating high school. Beck soon became a busy studio musician despite still being a teenager, not only as a guitarist but as a composer, arranger and conductor. He worked with Gil Evans, recorded with Miles Davis, spent a period outside of music and in 1975 recorded the popular album Beck And Sanborn with David Sanborn. Beck played in a countless number of sessions during the 1970s and ‘80s. Among the many jazz greats who he worked or recorded with were Herbie Hancock, Buddy Rich, Paul Desmond, Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, Stan Getz, Blue Mitchell, Gene Ammons, Houston Person, Joe Farrell, Gato Barbieri, and Michael Brecker.
After a second period off the scene, he returned to music in 1991, dedicated to playing more jazz and doing much less studio work. Beck, who invented the alto guitar and was a master of electronics, often worked in a duet with alto flutist Ali Ryerson, accompanied singers who he enjoyed, and led a trio. Joe Beck passed away shortly before his 63rd birthday in 2008 from lung cancer.
The previously unreleased music on Get Me Joe Beck is the guitarist’s final recording, a live performance from 2006. For this set, Beck kept the electronics to a minimum and simply played the jazz music he loved. With superior backing and interplay provided by bassist Peter Barshay and drummer David Rokeach, Beck is in the spotlight throughout eight standards; he is also heard talking briefly during a few spots between songs.
In most cases, Beck lovingly caresses the melodies before creating improvisations that keep the melody in mind. No matter how many times one has heard such songs as “Stella By Starlight,” “Alone Together,” “I Can’t Get Started” and “Corcovado,” in each case the guitarist brings something extra and new to the pieces, playing with such expertise and understanding that the songs sound fresh and alive. “You And The Night And The Music” is preceded by a brief version of John Lewis’ “Skating In Central Park” while “Georgia On My Mind” is heard a second time as an edited version for the radio.
Recorded live at Anna’s Jazz Island in Berkeley on a day’s notice, this final recording from Joe Beck finds him finishing his musical career at the top of his game.”
Amazing “Get Me Joe Beck” Review:
By Victor Aaron
When we listen to the last known recordings of a music great who has passed away, is it natural to elevate the quality of the music in those recordings because nothing else from that musician will ever follow it? That’s something that’s long intrigued me, and several years ago I even made up a short list of what I thought were significantly good sign-offs by jazz legends.
Since then, the overall list of “famous” last recordings has grown, some good, others not that significant. Now with the April 29 release of Joe Beck’s Get Me Joe Beck (Whaling City Sound), we can add this underappreciated jazz guitarist to the list, or even the shorter “significantly good” list.
Get Me Joe Beck documents a live date at Berkeley, California’s Anna’s Jazz Island club on September 14, 2006, less than two years before Beck succumbed to complications from lung cancer. Although his rhythm section of Peter Barshay (bass) and David Rokeach (drums) was chosen for him by the club owner, the very idea of recording the gig — also by the club owner — apparently didn’t occur to anyone until it was apparent from the first night’s engagement that something special was going on here. But Beck himself must have sensed that he could be giving one his final public performances on the late summer night in the San Francisco Bay Area, because this isn’t a set that makes concessions to anything but the sheer artistry of Joe Beck.
Playing an electric guitar devoid of effects, backed by lean accompaniment and relying on sturdy old standards, the only way Beck was going to wring magic out of this evening was to play his ass off. He rose up to the challenge.
As someone who had been making records since the early ’60′s, Joe Beck had long stopped pondering how to tackle standards. These are melodies and harmonies he knew so well, he was by this time beyond recreating them intuitively: he was reinventing them intuitively. Sprinkling in gorgeous chimes, he coddles “Georgia On My Mind,” and very subtly, he picks up the pace of “You and the Night and the Music,” transforming it from a tender ballad to a mid-tempo swing.
Front and center is his technique, however. He played a lot of the same devices as his better-known peers, even occasionally quoting other songs like Dexter Gordon, but he always played them a little differently.
Perhaps his greatest prowess came in his ability to deftly combine single line notes and chordal phrasings as heard so marvelously on “Stella By Starlight” and “Tenderly.” His single-line pursuit of notes was crisp, proven on “Alone Together” and, again, “Tenderly.” On “Manha de Carnaval,” his rhythm work plays perfectly in lock step with Rokeach’s rhythmic pattern, it’s hard to believe that they hadn’t played together before. And while Beck during one of his brief in-between song remarks claimed he liked to “sort of hint at what the next chord might be,” he never gave it away completely, always leaving a little suspense. Among his best such moments were a rapid, ascending-chord figure that came out of nowhere during “Georgia,” and the percussive way he hit his strings while making chimes on “Corcovado.”
Every song began with Beck alone (save for a sensitive bass solo and accompaniment for the intro of “Corcovado”), and these solo starts were strong enough to stand on their own. Once Barshay and Rokeach got going, any feeling that they might be intruding on a good vibe quickly dissipated because they were right on top of things and gave Beck the autonomy to maneuver as he pleased.
Liner notes don’t usually merit mention in a record review, but props to Beck’s friend and fellow plectrist John Abercrombie who effectively portrayed that specialness of Beck’s playing style in plainspoken terms. His discussion never devolved into some overlong, egghead/gearhead thesis, but as a respectful colleague giving his fallen comrade his due. Not long before this performance, Abercrombie had made a record he co-led with Beck, entitled Coincidence, making his perspective all the more relevant.
By far the best case made for why anyone who likes jazz and/or guitar should miss Beck is made by Joe Beck himself. No where did he make that case stronger than on Get Me Joe Beck.
Get Me Joe Beck: Guitarist Joe Beck Leaves a Shining Legacy
By Jazz Journalist Ralph A. Miriello
Coming of age in the ’60s, guitarist Joe Beck was a ubiquitous presence embedded in much of the music that I was listening to at the time. Beck started his career in the early ’60s at the age of 17 in Manhattan playing with some of the most heralded stars in the jazz world. He always said “I was just in the right place at the right time,” but truth be told he was damn good. You had to have been good to have played with the likes of Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto, Gil Evans, Maynard Ferguson, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Buddy Rich. Perhaps, most famously, he was the first electric guitarist to play and record with Miles Davis. He remembered the gig with Davis in 1967: “For years I had dreamed of playing with Miles, one of my heroes. But when I had the chance I wasn’t prepared yet, and I played very badly on that session.” The guitarist escaped the music for three years, operating a dairy farm before returning to become a staple of the studio and session scene in New York.
Beck’s imprint was all over Creed Taylor’s famous CTI label from the early seventies. He was practically Taylor’s house guitarist, his work on sessions by Esther Phillips, Joe Farrell, J.J. Johnson, Paul Desmond, Hubert Laws and Idris Muhammad. He made his own fusion release, self-titled Beck, from 1975 that included keyboardist Don Grolnick and the breakout crossover star, alto saxophonist David Sanborn. Beck was a jazz player who could scream like a rock player but with chops, and he employed ample fuzz tone or wah-wah effects as required. The guitarist was in the studio constantly, playing sessions for others, writing jingles and eventually producing and arranging. In 1975, his studio work could be found on Paul Simon’s blockbuster Still Crazy After All These Years. Not all his work was memorable. In 1977 he was enlisted to produce/arrange Frank Sinatra’s disastrous plunge into disco on two singles “Night and Day” and “All or Nothing At All”.
Despite being an in-demand sessions player, Joe looked back at time as being creatively stifling. In an interview in thelastmiles.com he summed up his experience this way:
“I was totally involved in the studio business in New York, which is basically playing bad music for good money. That’s what recording musicians do. Every once in a while they do something of note and that’s nice. I was moving from one house to another and my appointment book fell out of a drawer. I picked it up and noticed on one page that I had twenty-one sessions in five days. Now there are not twenty-one good sessions a week on the planet, so you know eighteen of them were absolute horror shows. Studio life is lucrative but musically bare.”
By 1989 Beck returned to dairy-farming, an ill-fated investment that depleted most of his savings and by 1992 he returned to music at age 47, a little too old for the studio scene. He picked up his guitar and returned to playing what he called “real” music, touring Europe. In 1993, he was still on call and can be heard on James Brown’s “Funky Side of Town” from Brown’s Get On The Good Foot album. Sometime in the late nineties, after he and the guitarist John Abercrombie had finished a successful European tour, Joe Beck was diagnosed with lung cancer. Despite a positive attitude and extensive treatment Beck passed on July 22, 2008 in Woodbury, CT at the age of sixty-two.
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Joe Beck has maintained a steady position on the Jazz Week Charts!
Beck is currently positioned at #26
“Get Me Joe Beck” #20 on the JazzWeek Charts!
“Get Me Joe Beck” Review
If you are a jazz guitar enthusiast, you have to check out Get Me (Whaling City Sound – 058) by JOE BECK. Beck, who left the scene too early in 2008 just a few days shy of his 63rd birthday, had a varied career as a player, producer, composer and arranger. He enjoyed his most commercial success as a player in fusion and pop jazz formats, but he was also a terrific straight ahead player. This album shows that aspect of his talent. It was recorded live at Anna’s Jazz Island in Berkeley, California in 2006. It was his last recording.He was accompanied by bassist Peter Barshay and drummer David Rokeach. The recording was taken from the second night of a two-night gig. Beck had not played with these two cats before, but they meshed perfectly. The program is comprised of “Stella By Starlight,” “Manhã de Carnival,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “Alone Together,” “Tenderly,” “I Can’t Get Started,” “You and the Night and the Music” and Corcovado.” Beck combines imaginative single note runs with sophisticated chording, resulting in music that is joyous to hear. Interspersed between selections is some brief commentary that shows off his dry wit. I dare you to listen to this album only once. It will draw you back again and again. (www.whalingcitysound.com)
Get Me Joe Beck CD release 4/29/14
A stunning musical epitaph from jazz guitar genius
Certainly, “all things must pass,” as George Harrison said. “None of life’s strings can last.” And so it was back in 2008 that the brilliant guitarist Joe Beck strummed his last chords. His death at the age of 63 left a gaping hole in the world of jazz guitar, but also left an immense legacy. For that, at the very least, we are thankful.
Joe also left us this album, Get Me Joe Beck,by Joe Beck Trio, Recorded Live at Anna’s Jazz Island in Berkeley, California. Fans of Beck and great guitar are so lucky to have this; it’s an incredible post-script to a career that spanned decade after productive decade, and saw him accompany so many of the genre’s major stars.
But Get Me is more than just another Beck recording. It’s as if he knew he wouldn’t get too many more chances, and he had it in his mind that, perhaps, this time he’d really show everyone what he was all about. In the words of Neal Weiss, president of the Whaling City Sound label that released six CDs featuring Beck, it showcased the musician “playing for himself … a master artist plying his craft at the highest level and leaving it out there to be appreciated for what it is.”
And it is really something. Joined by the “sick” (Joe’s own words on the CD) rhythm section of Peter Barshay on bass and Dave Rokeach on drums, Beck is phenomenal. With simply the bass and drums behind him, he feels at liberty to explore different ideas, coursing across a vast spectrum of exhilarating passages, chordal explorations and single note journeys. Those who knew him as a talented chordal player, and he was, will enjoy Beck’s creative soloing, which is by turns gorgeous, bluesy, experimental, and evocative. It is unnecessary, really, to name them by song. Beck is masterful from the opening of this recording (“Stella By Starlight”) to the very end (“Georgia On My Mind.”) There are no exceptions.
The live recording, done in Berkeley, was beautifully captured by Adrian Wong and mixed and mastered by Dan Feiszli. It is punctuated by a few spoken word passages that give us some idea of Beck’s wry humor and his concise patter, the stuff that contributed to him being such a talented performer. In the words of John Abercrombie, a contributor to the liner notes and Joe’s good friend, “Joe Beck was, is, and will always be one of the greatest musicians to ever play this damned instrument called the guitar.” Not exactly faint praise from a fellow master, and words for us all to remember as we listen to the lovely last recordings of the legendary Joe Beck.