Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Joe Beck & John Abercrombie: Coincidence

A consummate accompanist, versatile pro and ubiquitous studio man who racked up a staggering array of credits through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, Joe Beck is the only guitarist to have recorded with Miles Davis, James Brown, Buddy Rich, Burt Bacharach and Paul Simon. A master of chordal melodies, Beck has also demonstrated a penchant for wailing with distortion-laced lines, going back to his classic fusion album from 1975, Beck/Sanborn. On these two intimate duet recordings, the great guitarist showcases the full scope of his six-string abilities with two very different guitar-playing partners, one a longtime colleague and world-renowned improviser, the other a gifted young upstart appearing on just his second recording.

On Coincidence, Beck and Abercrombie engage in elegantly swinging extrapolations on several jazz standards while also digging into a couple of earthy blues numbers. With Beck panned right and Abercrombie on the left, the two guitars are further distinguished by tone and attack, Beck affecting a brighter, more modernist reverb-soaked sound and steely technique, Abercrombie going for a warmer, old-school jazz tone and a more blunted approach achieved by eschewing a pick and strumming with his thumb, a la Wes Montgomery. Together the two virtuosos spin intricate counterpoint lines on John Carisi’s “Israel” and Abercrombie’s own chamberlike “Vingt-Six.” They disguise the melody on “I Should Care,” “Beautiful Love” and “My Funny Valentine” in myriad abstractions through the changes, eventually revealing the familiar themes on the out choruses. Beck’s “Mikey Likes It” is a raucous electric blues with each player dialing up a touch of distortion for nasty effect, and “All Blues” is handled as a hard-edged blues in 4/4 instead of the customary 3/4 time.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published