Wednesday, July 25, 2018


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I had been of the recent opinion that what guitarist Jeff Beck has been doing for the last decade was mostly composed of doodling-- short, strange guitar riffs and odd sounds aplenty, but little in the way of interesting guitar work. The July 22nd concert  at the  Mattress Firm Amphitheater was another matter altogether; I've had the honor of seeing Beck three times previously; what did that night was a revelation. Fluid, fast, angular, bluesy, full of blues phrasing framed sidewise and in reverse order, tonalities that are from a refined adaptation of Indian classical improvisation, splintered chromaticism, power chords, fusion dynamics and the sweetest lyric playing one would wish for. And yes, lots of funk. All this, of course, with a fine band , including drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (Frank Zappa, Sting, Herbie Hancock), vocalist Jimmy Hall, bassist Rhonda Smith (Prince, Chaka Khan, BeyoncĂ©, George Clinton) and cellist Vanessa Freebairn-Smith, all of whom propelled the guitarist with a tightly conceptualized sense of varying rhythms that propelled the guitarist to what seemed like greater and more inspired outlays of his singular virtuosity as the set wore on. Although not a hyper virtuoso along the lines of Joe Pass or John McLaughlin, two guitarists he clearly admires, Beck has all the same spent the majority of career in a state of perpetual flux, going from one style to the next, from hard rock, blues metal, rockabilly , jazz-rock to increasingly synth-dominated backdrops, and sometimes his playing, in my regard, missed the mark. Always, always, though, he was adding to his armory, changing his style, broadening his understanding of where a solo could go, evolving to his current state of what seems to be a superior style that's all of a piece, without seams, without stitches; grand swaths of bracing electric dissonance intersected superbly with a spare and melodic ad-libbing along a song's main theme. Simple, winsomely stated phrases built into quick-witted crescendos.It was a night was a rich, fluent display of all his 50 years of experiments, investigations, inquiries into all manner of music from around the world. It was fluid, intense, the work of a singular artist at the very top of his form.

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