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Joe Beck's resume dates back to the late sixties: opening for Cream; playing with Buddy Rich; backing Sinatra, Miles, and pop rocker Melanie; plus years of composing for films and TV. Beck is professional and versatile, with a very polished yet relaxed approach on his latest offering, Just Friends.
The guitarist got together with a couple of friends and long time collaboratorsbassist Mark Egan and drummer Danny Gotliebfor a laid-back, straight-ahead session that showcases their virtuosity and fluid musical rapport.
The trio opens with Cole Porter's classic, "I Love You," which must be Beck's tribute to family and friends, musical and otherwise. Beck's guitar just sings; he (as Monk advises) picks the notes and chords he means, bringing credence to the idea that "every straight ahead outing should include at least one Cole Porter tune." Beck's string work is crisp and snappy, while Egan's bass lines loop around the melody, in front of Gotlieb's tasteful high end skin work.
And that pretty much sets the tone for the entire CD: Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss", Hammerstein & Romberg's beautiful "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise", a few shining Beck originalshis "Get Ready" might be the disc's higlight, in a start-to-finish fine set. Or maybe it's the classic "The Girl Next Door," Beck's fingers bringing out the crystalline notes in a magical dance. Seamless, flawlessly executed, a guitar delivery that somehow brings to mind Ella Fitzgeraldthe flow and phrasing, the subtlety and nuance.
And the sound quality sparkles like a gemstone. Just Friends is an outstanding straight-ahead guitar trio outing.