Jeff Beck Performing This Week: Live at Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club - A CD Review

When it comes to guitar legends, few can measure up to Jeff Beck. Going all the way back to his days with the Yardbirds, Beck has continually infused new life into electric guitar, pushing the boundaries into jazz fusion and forging his own unique technique and style. I've been a fan of Jeff Beck pretty much from the first time I heard him play. He has a way of touching a note and sculpting it in a way that is completely unexpected and can take a simple phrase and wrench more emotion out of it than just about any player I've ever seen. I consider Jeff Beck to be one of my primary influences in my own guitar playing to this day.

Back in 2007, I was lucky enough to attend the 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival here just outside of Chicago, sure enough Jeff Beck was on the bill and sure enough I was psyched about it. Although there were lots of great players that day, Beck's blew my mind as the music that he created with his band was powerfully moving, progressive yet beautiful... all at the same time... the music just seemed to come alive even more in the live setting.

Although DVD's of that performance have been released, (you can read my review of that DVD here: Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007 Concert Footage: A DVD Review), if I remember correctly, the last live album officially issued in the US by Beck was way back in 1976. There were bootlegs and other releases from more recent, but none with the most current "Beck band" lineup, the band I saw perform at Crossroads that had wowed me so much... at least until now.

Performing This Week: Live at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club is exactly what it sounds like: a live album, released just this past November, taken from a week long series of shows that Jeff Beck and the band played at Ronnie Scott's. When I was given the opportunity to check out this release, being the huge Jeff Beck fan that I am, I jumped at the chance... I certainly wasn't disappointed.

Here's the album track listing:

1.Beck Bolero
2.Eternity's Breath
3.Stratus
4.Cause We've Ended as Lovers
5.Behind the Veil
6.You Never Know
7.Nadia
8.Blast From the East
9.Led Boots
10. Angel (Footsteps)
11. Scatterbrain
12. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat/Brush With the Blues
13. Space Boogie
14. Big Block
15. A Day in the Life
16. Where Were You

Fellow Jeff Beck fans will recognize a number of classics spanning Beck's more fusion inclined career, including some of his most spine-tingling songs, like "Cause We've Ended as Lovers" and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat/Brush With the Blues". I was especially excited to see "Beck's Bolero" a piece written by Jimmy Page pre Led Zeppelin, and one of my favorite early Jeff Beck Group recordings. Also exciting to hear, Beck's take on Lennon and McCartney's "A Day in the Life", which continues to thrill me as much as the original as it did the first time I heard it.

I won't go track by track on this one, simply because if you're a Jeff Beck fan, every track is amazing. Each is a showcase of the power of the band he has assembled, especially bassist Tal Wilkenfeld. She won over the crowd at the Crossroads festival with some incredible playing, and her bass skills come through loud and clear on this release as well, as does the progressive drumming of Vinnie Colaiuta and subtle, but expansive and jazzy keyboard work of Jason Rebello. As good as each of those players are though, they're really just providing counterpoint and backdrop for one of the most emotive guitar players of all time. I don't mean that in a bad way, but Beck's guitar work, definitely takes center stage.

What most impressed me about this album was actually how many of the subtleties that are captured. Beck's guitar work is almost entirely about subtleties... the tiny little musical nuances he adds to every note he plays that makes them more vocal, more gripping and more encompassing. Some guitarists play with technique, but Jeff Beck most certainly plays with finesse, and that's not an easy thing to capture on a live recording. I think that they've done quite well on this album though, and I think it serves as a great demonstration of exactly what an incredible guitarist... no musician... Jeff Beck really is and why so many people over the years have continued to be inspired by, and to enjoy his work.

That isn't to say that it's perfect, but I have no complaints about the music or the recordings themselves. Instead, I wish it could be longer. At only one disk of around 70 minutes and 16 songs, it's an impressive piece no doubt, but a double disk of live material, or a complete show, would have been incredible. Not really a complaint, just a comment. Second, and this might be jaded by the fact that I remember seeing this band perform live relatively recently, and being blown away, but I do think there's still a little something missing that couldn't be captured from the concert. I think almost every live album suffers from that in some form though... it's part of the nature of recording a live event with only audio... so that's not really a complaint either.

I haven't heard some of the bootlegs, but any shortcomings it may have, I think this is probably the best live album from Beck's catalog. Is it as incredible as seeing him play live? Probably not, but it's still pretty amazing and can definitely give you those spine tingling moments.

So, if you were impressed by Jeff Beck and the band at the Crossroads Festival, or maybe their songs from the Crossroads DVD, or you're a long time Jeff Beck fan... OR maybe you're just a new Jeff Beck fan, I don't think you can go wrong picking up this one.

Jeff Beck's Performing This Week: Live at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club... A great live album, from one of the legends of guitar... check it out.

You can find it directly from Amazon here: Performing This Week...Live At Ronnie Scotts

Then again, maybe you want to wait a little as there's supposed to be a DVD release to accompany this album coming out sometime in 2009, and I have a feeling that's going to be equally, if not even more impressive. Or maybe you'll pick up the album now, to tide you over till the DVD comes out, because I know after listening to this one, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the DVD.

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