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Yardbirds Jeff Beck and Nigel Kennedy Make Jazz at Albert Hall


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Jeff Beck, the rock guitarist, was making a surprise appearance at the Proms last night -- and creating a piece of musical history.

Beck, 64, who made his name with the Yardbirds in the 1960s, was due to play a guitar solo during a late-night concert of jazz and blues organised by Nigel Kennedy, the violinist. The two men have got to know each other over the past few months through a mutual love of jazz.

Kennedy, best known for his Vivaldi and Elgar renditions, invited Beck to join him in the Albert Hall. “It's monumental to be playing at the Proms," said Beck shortly before he was due on stage.

It is the first time a genuine rock star has played at the 113-year- old festival even if the Proms, which are mainly a celebration of classical music, have on occasion broken the mould with performances by Michael Ball and Ravi Shankar. Soft Machine, the avant garde jazz-rock group also played a Prom in 1970.

Beck, however, is a genuine rock legend who replaced Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds. He had a solo hit with Hi Ho Silver Lining before leading his own group with a young Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, to whom he bears an uncanny resemblance. In the cult 1966 movie Blow-Up, Beck breaks his guitar -- a scene replicated in the spoof rock documentary, This is Spinal Tap.

“I'd long admired Kennedy both for his classical music and his jazz," said Beck, who for 17 years lived with the 1960s model Celia Hammond, now better known for rescuing stray cats.

Last night Beck, who has won four Grammy awards for best rock instrumental performance, played a jazz number, Hills of Saturn, composed by Kennedy. Earlier in the evening Kennedy had performed Elgar's Violin Concerto before coming back on stage with his own quintet, formed in Poland where he now lives for half the year after marrying a Polish woman.

“Nigel was particularly keen for me to do the Hills of Saturn solo," said Beck, who played the track on his Fender Stratocaster electric guitar.

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