Back in 2009 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honored one of my favorite guitarists - and it was about time too! A mover and shaker by the late 1960s, Jeff Beck has left his mark on the blues, rock and roll, and jazz, and has worked with and garnered the respect of a number of notable musicians, including Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood, Nicky Hopkins, Tim Bogert ... and the list goes on and on.
This musician is, in my opinion, the very essence and definition of cool; and he has paved the way for countless other rock and roll guitarists since his entry on the scene. As Jimmy Page said in a red carpet interview outside the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, '... he's been instrumental in pioneering a whole blueprint that was totally unique to him, that has been such a ... well again, such a blueprint for everyone else to learn from ... I mean no one's ever equaled what Jeff's done, but he really shifted the whole ... sound and face of electric guitar ...'
Now it goes without saying that there have been other influential guitar players who had major impacts on the sound of rock and roll and the blues; but the thing that captured my attention early on during the years when I really began to listen to modern music, is the way Jeff Beck has that uncanny ability to make his guitar sing. He strikes hauntingly powerful notes and sustains them with incredible precision and skill, creating a tone that is altogether captivating and beautiful. I usually have to stop whatever I am doing when I hear his music, because there is this enchantment in his playing that makes everything around me cease to exist, and all I want to do is sit and listen to those beautiful melodic chords and notes shimmer through the air. His talent is raw and brilliant; his technique in many ways homemade (Page talked about how they compared homemade guitars when they first met as teenagers in Surrey); and over the decades his playing has not only influenced the numerous paths taken by his rock and roll and blues peers, but has also attracted the attention of jazz musicians such as Charles Mingus, to whom he payed homage on his album Wired.
Jeff Beck seems also to be quite playful in his performances and, I think, in life - which to me makes him one of the most endearing characters in the world of rock and roll. Years ago I worked for a summer at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, where many of the major label musicians purchased their instruments. When one of the store managers got back from a photo shoot with Jeff Beck, I got a chance to ask him how it all went, and what it was like to meet one of rock and roll's greatest players. I'll never forget the smile on his face as he told me that Beck was way more into talking about the latest car he was restoring than anything related to guitars and playing music. Well, if his playing is any reflection of the other activities in his life, I can imagine that his cars are absolutely brilliant too.
Here are two videos of Jeff Beck performing at the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in Cleveland. For this type of setting, I think his performance is amazing, and the choice of ending it with Peter Gunn is perfection at its greatest. And my god, the man looks great - even dressed all in white - as already stated, he is the very essence of cool. Also check out his bass player, the fabulous Tal Wilkenfeld - her performance here is brilliant!