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Joe Beck

(7.29.45 – 7.22.08)

Joe Beck
L to R: John Abercrombie and Joe Beck

I first heard Joe Beck play in the mid-’60s in Boston, while I was a student at the Berklee College of Music. He was playing at the Jazz Workshop in a quartet that also included Mike Mainieri. I was captivated by his musicality. Single notes and chords seemed to flow in such a complete way that I remember thinking that if Bill Evans played guitar, this is what he’d sound like! I didn’t meet him at that time, due to my shyness, a trait that I have since overcome and which I doubt Joe ever had to deal with. I did get to meet him shortly after I moved to New York, in the early ’70s. He was extremely gracious and friendly to me, as well as supportive of what I was doing.

We both did similar work in the studios in New York in those days. It seems that there were only a few guitar players then who could play jazz but also had a grasp of the changes that were taking place in the jazz world: rock/fusion and the melding of different influences that didn’t only include bebop. Once we ran into each other at Manny’s Music store on 48th Street and he mentioned to me that he thought a particular record that I did with Ralph Towner was an almost perfect recording. He never told me what made it not perfect, and I had the good sense to never ask, although I have an idea what it was. Joe was always honest and to the point.

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