Performing This Week... Live at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club
At 64, Jeff Beck has gone from the young guitarist who admitted trying to keep up with Jimi Hendrix to the guitarist Hendrix might’ve become if he’d survived. Despite several recording lulls over 45 years, Beck has crafted a singular sub-genre anchored in rock, blues, jazz and reggae. In 2007, he gave an overview at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London with keyboardist Jason Rebello, bassist Tal Wilkenfeld and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. This CD and a forthcoming DVD document the performances.
The CD opens with the Jimmy Page-penned, Yardbirds-era “Beck’s Bolero,” then shifts into a medley of John McLaughlin’s “Eternity’s Breath” and Billy Cobham’s “Stratus.” Beck gets warmed up by the latter, finally keeping pace with Colaiuta, one of the few who could keep up with the wide stylistic range of stellar drummers (Narada Michael Walden, Richard Bailey, Terry Bozzio, Simon Phillips) Beck has employed. Wilkenfeld plays a beautiful solo on the ballad “’Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers,” and mimics Jan Hammer’s keyboard intro on the funky “You Never Know.”
Yet you know something’s missing when none of the songs transcend their studio performances. Beck achieved that goal in the late 1990s with a gritty, keyboard-less quartet that included fellow guitarist Jennifer Batten, so Rebello is the logical culprit. The British keyboardist’s tones are simply too synthetic, particularly for Beck’s 1970s material. Colaiuta energizes the midsection with an unaccompanied solo on “Blast From the East” that segues into the rhythmic shell game of “Led Boots.” And Beck plays heroically in the second half on “Scatterbrain,” “Space Boogie” and the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” Yet the prevailing notion the CD leaves is that it’s the DVD that might truly make this set come alive.