Jeff Beck RIP: No pick needed
In the mid-70s, Beck supported John McLaughlin’s jazz-rock group Mahavishnu Orchestra on tour, an experience that radically changed how he saw music. “Watching [McLaughlin] and the sax player trading solos, I thought, ‘This is me’,” he said in 2016.
Inspired, Beck embraced jazz fusion fully on the George Martin-produced Blow By Blow. A platinum-selling hit in the US which peaked at No 4, it was Beck’s most commercially successful album ever, but he later expressed regret. “I shouldn’t have done Blow By Blow,” he told Guitar Player in 1990. “I wish I had stayed with earthy rock’n’roll. When you’re surrounded with very musical people like Max Middleton and Clive Chaman, you’re in a prison, and you have to play along with that.
About the last sentence, I get it. But I suspect he knew his guitar better than his own mind. Somebody once said that apart from a three year period when Hendrix ruled, Beck was the most inventive rock guitarist of his lifetime. Maybe.
I first saw him around the time of the album Live at Ronnie Scott’s. (youtube link here). Two favourites: Stratus, a Billy Cobham tune with that funky rhythm that keeps catching you after you think you have it (but you never do), which precedes his signature version of the Stevie Wonder song Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers (the latter ~10:40 in). Yes, the rest of us should give up our guitars, shut up, and just listen.
Then there is the matter of Tal Wilkenfeld, who, it appears, picked up a guitar one day and then via Chick Corea was playing on the above gig a few days later. I took some convincing she was even old enough to be in high school.