March 2009

Jeff Beck - Performing This Week…Live at Ronnie Scott’s
Eagle Records ER 20150-2
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Of the great rock and blues guitarists of the '60s, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix displayed a technical command of the instrument comparable to that of jazz guitarists. Both have been hugely influential, but the players who copied them have managed to pin down only a portion of what made them so unique. Beck showed an affinity for instrumental rock early with "Beck’s Bolero," which his Yardbirds band-mate Jimmy Page wrote for him, and he perfected his instrumental approach with Blow by Blow (1975). His albums since have solidified his status as one of the world’s most innovative and daring guitarists, and he continues to defy categorization.

Performing This Week…Live at Ronnie Scott’s begins with "Beck’s Bolero" and then jumps forward to two '70s-era fusion compositions, "Eternity’s Breath" and "Status," originally recorded respectively by John McLauglin and Billy Cobham. Beck revisits his own fusion past with "Led Boots." In his hands, the music doesn’t sound dated, mainly because he has never relied on technique alone to make his case. He plays every solo with deep emotion and a resolve to avoid clichés. His interpretation of the Beatles’ "A Day in the Life" is a powerful demonstration of both his mastery of the guitar and his understanding of how to bring his voice to a song while remaining true to it.

Beck is very ably supported by Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Jason Rebello on keys, and Tal Wilkenfeld on bass. The recording is lively and clean, with a pleasing small-club ambience. There’s lots of guitar flash on Performing This Week…, but Jeff Beck never runs out of ideas and never coasts.