Legendary rock guitarist Jeff Beck has had one of the least flashy yet most influential careers in rock history. Universally acknowledged as one of the most talented and influential guitarists in the world, Beck has played alongside some of the greatest artists of rock, blues and jazz, during his 40-plus years in the music industry. Now 69, he arose from the hallowed ground of garage rock idols The Yardbirds — the very same fertile soil that birthed fellow gods Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. A groundbreaking artist whose inimitable combination of primal shredding and cool perfectionism has won him eight Grammy awards and left an indelible mark on everything from hard rock and jazz fusion to rockabilly and techno, Beck has earned wide critical praised and twice been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
But it’s his artistry in his live performances that have made his concerts the stuff of legend. Beck, who is about to release a new album, will take his new band on the road for the Jeff Beck World Tour 2014 in April. The tour will take in Japan, Australia, and various European dates including 6 in the UK. It follows last autumn's hugely successful U.S.-wide 18-city marathon with Brian Wilson, architect of the Beach Boys, during which the L.A. Times praised Beck’s "mastery of the electric guitar" and "gorgeous tone" and Wilson said of him that he “plays the most goddamn greatest guitar you've ever heard."
For the 2014 tour, the musician whose genius for picking young talent first brought Rod Stewart to fame, will be accompanied by four brilliant musicians he brought together for the first time last year: bassist Rhonda Smith, guitarist Nic Meier, drummer Jonathan James and Lizzie Ball on violin.
Beck grew up in Wallington, England and between his mother’s piano playing and the family radio tuned to everything from dance to classical; he was surrounded by music from a young age.
Beck famously replaced Eric Clapton as the Yardbirds’ lead guitarist in 1965 and later went on to form The Jeff Beck Group, which featured Rod Stewart on vocals and Ron Wood on bass. Their two albums - “Truth” (1968) and “Beck-Ola” (1969) – would become musical touchstones for hard rockers in the years to come. The constantly evolving Beck’s next move --- a power trio with bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice, which released “Beck, Bogert and Appice” (1973) --- once again shattered people’s preconceptions of what a rock guitarist was supposed to sound like.
Music has always shared space with Jeff’s love of hot rods. After the success of his groundbreaking 1975 jazz-fusion classic. “Blow By Blow” and “Wired,” Beck began devoting more time to his fleet of cars, but 1985’s “Flash” kept him in the spotlight as he earned the Best Rock Instrumental Grammy for the song “Escape.” A second Grammy came with “Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop with Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas”, and a third for “Dirty Mind” from the “You Had It Coming” album in 2001.
A new direction came serendipitously after Brian Wilson heard Beck play at his MusiCares Person of the Year tribute in 2005. When Beck stepped up with Surf's Up, a dazzling new musical relationship was formed.
A triumphant 2009 brought many highlights including a sold-out world tour; Beck’s second induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; the release of the platinum-selling Performing This Week… Live at Ronnie Scott’s, which earned a Grammy nomination for “A Day In The Life”; and magnificent performances with his band at the 25th Anniversary Concert of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden.
In June 2010, Beck paid fitting tribute to his mentor, the great Les Paul, celebrating what would have been the pioneering guitarist’s 95th birthday, by playing his friend’s music, along with classic tunes from the era, in the same Times Square nightclub that Paul played every Monday for 14 years before his death in August 2009. During the celebration, Beck was joined on-stage at the Iridium Jazz Club by The Imelda May Band, along with other guest performers Brian Setzer, Gary “U.S.” Bonds, and Trombone Shorty; he was to perform again with Imelda May on The Tonight Show in 2011. The celebration was filmed and recorded for later release.
Beck’s astonishing 2010 solo album, Emotion & Commotion, complements the innovative tones he coaxes from his Stratocaster with a 64-piece orchestra. The remarkable combination shines on a range on songs, from Puccini’s aria “Nessun Dorma” and “Elegy For Dunkirk” from the film Atonement to “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz and an interpretation of “Corpus Christi Carol.” “What appealed to me was the idea of bringing together these seemingly incongruous styles on different kinds of nonclassical music.”
The innovation paid off. In 2011 Beck was nominated in 5 categories for the Grammy Awards before bringing home three: Best Rock Instrumental Performance for “Hammerhead” and Best Pop Instrumental performance for “Nessun Dorma”, both from Emotion & Commotion, and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for “Imagine,” his collaboration with Herbie Hancock. His Rock ‘N’ Roll Party Honoring Les Paul album was nominated for a 2012 Grammy Award for Best Rock Album, and in 2013, after a New York performance at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival at Madison Square Garden, came the September-October North America tour with Wilson and Beck’s latest musical protégés.
Throughout his career, Beck has been credited with finding and launching the careers of some of the most exciting new artists on the musical landscape. Adding to his early find of Rod Stewart as singer of the Jeff Beck Group in the 70’s, his recent multiple performances with Imelda May at The Grammy’s and the Tribute to Les Paul at the Iridium, with subsequent U.S. tour, have brought the singer to the U.S. public’s attention, front and center. He has collaborated with Grammy-Award winning singer Imogen Heap and UK sensation Joss Stone on various albums. Over the last few years he has performed alongside singers Kelly Clarkson and Joss Stone on the most-watched U.S. television series to date, American Idol. In an exciting recent development, Beck’s eye for new talent has brought him together in collaboration with New Orleans jazz-sensation Trombone Shorty, combining their talents for a roof-raising performance at the city’s 2010 Jazz Festival and on a track featured on Shorty’s 2011 album For True.
Beck’s latest line-up sparkles with fresh talent. Bassist Rhonda Smith, who toured with Beck in 2011, plays smooth jazz/funk to electrified funk/rock and has worked with artists from Prince to Chaka Khan and Beyonce. Guitarist Nicolas Meier has carved a reputation out as one of the UK’s most original musicians, drawing on a love of Turkish and Eastern music, flamenco, tango and jazz. Jonathan Joseph has played with many of the world’s greats, drumming for acclaimed artists including Al Jarreau, Ricky Martin, the contemporary jazz band Yellow Jackets, bassist Richard Bona and singer Joss Stone, and first played with Beck at Crossroads.