By Guitarist/Composer Alyn Syms, photo-Thomas S. Orwat, Jr.
There are guitarists, and there are great guitarists, and then there is Jeff Beck, in a class of his own. In my opinion, the best there is. An innovator and virtuoso , like Paganini, he is the most celebrated guitar virtuoso of his time, and has made his mark as one of the pillars of modern guitar technique. He did it all with style, class and cool. And if you’re not cool, you have no business playing the guitar to begin with.
I’ve always admired Jeff Beck’s approach to guitar playing and his fundamental dedication to prowess on his instrument. I listened to his earlier albums with a good set of headphones on and played with the balance control to isolate his guitar work and was struck by the clarity of his sound and skillful attack. It was said about him that he didn’t play faster than others but further. Speed for speed’s sake is for hacks anyway, if a listener can’t hear what you’re playing, then both you and what you are playing is meaningless, just an ego trip, at their expense. What Jeff Beck plays and the way he plays it is Composition, the medium of Masters, not ordinary musicians.
About Jeff Beck’s set on Friday, April 22 at the UB Center for the Arts:
I saw him last June in Rochester on my birthday. Same band, some of the same songs, but they didn’t play one song the same way they did last year on Friday night. They believe in creation, not re-creation. The band was great and tight, which is better. In the sixties they called it the Rave up with the Yardbirds, we call it a jam, and they did a lot of that Friday night. To me it was more of a Detonation, the kind that knocked the wind out of the audience. People didn’t scream as much as applaude reverently. He played “Over the Rainbow” through a couple of Marshall’s on 10 through a sound system, yet made it beautiful. He played a Hendrix song, but played it like Jeff Beck.
For his encore an Aria, which moved me to tears and stopped my heart. On bended knee, like a man giving his heart and soul to a woman, he hit notes that were perfect moments of honor. He played my favorite song early in the set, “Led Boots”, and kicked ass and took names, so did his band for that matter. He played Sly Stones best track “I Want to Take You Higher” and played it better than anyone has. It was a jam from front to back.
The Japanese word Sensei is a title used to show respect to someone who has achieved a certain level of mastery in an art form or some other skill. The two characters that make up the term can be directly translated as “ born before “ and implies one who teaches based on wisdom from age and experience. I started playing guitar in 1965 and Jeff Beck was always my guitar Sensei. I’ve seen him four times since his ‘Blow by Blow’ Tour. He has always amazed me, inspired me and because of him I play on the level I do today. He played Friday night like he always has, with Heart, Soul, and Majesty. It’s good to know greatness exists somewhere.
Stratus (Billy Cobham cover)
Corpus Christi Carol
Mna Na Eireann
People Get Ready
You Never Know
Rollin’ and Tumblin’
Over the Rainbow
Brush with the Blues
A Day in the Life
How High the Moon
I Want to Take You Higher
For more on Jeff Beck go to www.JeffBeck.com