The jazz fusion “hero” who influenced Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck

Most of the time, the general public’s perception of rock and roll guitarists is one of haughtiness or pretence. To be fair, you can’t help but roll your eyes when musicians like Jimmy Page or Eric Clapton spend hours discussing guitar tones and the delights of the B7sus4 chord. However, the majority of the greatest guitarists in rock history were actually fairly modest musicians who were always trying to improve and refine their own technique. One such person was Jeff Beck, the blues rock icon from Surrey.

Beck became well-known in the 1960s while playing with The Yardbirds. It didn’t take long for him to become one of the best guitarists in Britain at the time. Jimmy Page recommending Beck for inclusion in the group illustrates the breadth of Beck’s skill set. His work with The Yardbirds helped to radically alter public perceptions of blues rock.

Even though he is most known for the riffs he wrote with The Yardbirds or for his early solo compositions like “Hi Ho Silver Lining” and “Beck’s Bolero,” some of the guitarist’s most brilliant work was produced after he started to embrace jazz in the 1960s. Although jazz-rock fusion is a highly controversial subgenre that has offended fans of both rock and jazz, Beck’s stylistic escapades were incredibly captivating.

Of course, there were many reasons behind Beck’s descent into jazz-rock fusion. However, one major influence at the time was Jan Hammer’s guitar work. Although Jeff Beck initially admired the Czech composer’s solo work, Hammer’s success as a keyboardist with the early jazz fusion group Mahavishnu Orchestra initially brought him fame.

Hammer released his debut solo album, “The First Seven Days,” in 1975, which changed the landscape of American jazz fusion. As expected, Jeff Beck has always considered it to be a special favorite. Even though Hammer didn’t play guitar on the record. Beck’s style changed as a result of the distinctive tones of his keyboard work.

The guitarist told The Express in 2014, “The music on [The First Seven Days] is so graphic”. He added, “Jan became my hero when he was in John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra.” I became obsessed with how he played bendy notes on a keyboard to make it sound like a guitar. In part, this never-ending quest for knowledge and creativity explains why Jeff Beck is routinely praised as one of the greatest rock guitarists of the 20th century.

Fortunately for Beck, Hammer did not hold back when disclosing the details of his playing technique. In fact, Beck enlisted Hammer to provide keyboards for his third solo album, Wired. The resulting album is undoubtedly one of the best jazz fusion records of that decade. The 1977 joint live album by Jeff Beck and the Jan Hammer Group surpassed it.

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