Joe Beck: Tri07 (2007)
Tri07 is a different type of release for Joe Beck. Which is a powerful statement, since this guitarists' guitarist has won the Most Valuable Player Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) five different times, and his career, which spans five decades, includes working with Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, Antonio Carlos Jobim and other geniuses.
Tri07 delivers two distinct Beck flavors: Adventurous improvisational explorations that deconstruct and reassemble pieces such as "You and the Night and the Music" and John Coltrane's "Impressions," and reverential yet energetic reviews of numerous hallowed standards ("But Beautiful," "Laura," "My Romance," "Cry Me A River" and "(I Don't Stand) a Ghost of a Chance with You").
Beck can move so freely between these styles thanks to the energy and dexterity of his rhythm section: bassist Santi Dibriano, who has played with Larry Coryell, Pharoah Sanders, Sam Rivers, Sonny Fortune and Archie Shepp; and drummer Thierry Arpino, who most often plays with Jean-Luc Ponty. "We traveled together musically for two solid days of experimental sessions," wrote Dibriano in his notes; "This rhythm section is almost too good to be true," wrote Beck in reply.
This trio's opening "Impressions" of the Coltrane classic provides a clear path for the extrapolations and interpretations which follow. Arpino's firm beat grounds the ensemble, but Beck's guitar doesn't stay shackled to any uniform cadence for very long. Their ten-minute exploration takes "Alone Together" even farther out, and they wrestle new riffs and colors from the concluding "You and the Night and the Music," an abstract spacewalk through which Dibriano's fingers fly so quickly that his bass notes blur together into a continuous harmonic rumble, and Arpino's unaccompanied breaks fracture the brittle sound of Elvin Jones into brilliant marble pieces.
Beck proves to be a ballad interpreter who allows the original melody to whisper through his own vision. "But Beautiful" retains that gorgeous, almost timeless melody over which Tony Bennett, for example, loves to linger, but within these eight minutes Beck finds time and space to beautifully improvise on its underlying chords, with perfect, literally perfect, rhythmic support. The trio unravels the chords of "(I Don't Stand) A Ghost of a Chance with You" into ribbons, and then neatly ties these ribbons back up into colorful knots and bows, while "Cry Me a River" suggests the soft strong touch of Barney Kessel.
Beck also contributes two of his own tunes. "A Little Blue" is precisely that, a loping blues shuffle where he sharpens his chords and attack, and shows off his Chet Atkins and George Benson chops. "Dancing to San Xavier" is evocative in both title and impact; Beck's guitar sort of hovers between clouds of airy melodic lines, while DiBriano and Arpino samba with only the loosest of gossamer connections between them, until everyone descends upon a spontaneous improvisational eruption of flowing, hot chords to close.
Track Listing: Impressions; But Beautiful; Laura; My Romance; Alone Together; Cry Me a River; A Little Blue; Dancing to San Xavier; (I Don't Stand) A Ghost of a Chance with You; You and the Night and the Music.
Personnel: Joe Beck: guitar; Santi Dibriano: bass; Thierry Arpino: drums.
Record Label: Whaling City Sound