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Jeff Beck Shows Off "Musical Tourette's" at Montreal Jazz Fest

July 7, 2009 8:28 AM ET

In the world of rock guitar gods, two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Jeff Beck stands alone in terms of scope and style. And in the first of two shows at the Montreal International Jazz Festival's half-way mark, he demonstrated his awesome power. He did it, mind you, with some serious help from what might be his perfect band. While every sustained note, tremolo lurch, tapping display and outburst of controlled feedback was received with noisy reverence from the 3,000-strong audience, Beck had help delivering his guitar gospel from the stellar trio of musicians that backed him up on last year's Live at Ronnie Scott's disc: drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, keyboard player Jason Rebello and 23-year-old force-of-nature bassist Tal Wilkenfeld. Together, they played a wonderful set that closely mirrored the selection of Beck career favorites chosen for the live CD.

(Read Beck's entry on our 100 Greatest Guitarists here.)

Beck kept his onstage patter to a simple "merci" and an introduction of his bandmates near the end of the 90-minute show. Otherwise, all communicating with his audience was done through his fingers. From the moment the group opened with "Beck’s Bolero," the man of the hour slid into the high registers, eliciting squeals and screams from his instrument. As the evening moved on, he sprayed clusters of growling low notes into the hall on the reggae scorcher "Behind the Veil," took the Beatles' "A Day In the Life" to strange and wonderful places and wound down with the lonesome "Where Were You". The night ended with a rollicking version of "Peter Gunn Theme."

Earlier in the day, Beck had received the first Tribute award from the Festival's Guitar Show. During a question-and-answer session following the presentation, he fielded a question about the spontaneity of his technique. "It's a form of musical Tourette's, I think," he said, to general laughter. "It's an involuntary spasm. Probably, it's a form of insanity." But with every howling note so exquisitely placed, we're talking crazy like a fox.

Check out our first report from the Montreal Jazz Festival here:
Stevie Wonder Ignites Montreal Jazz Festival With Classic Grooves, Salutes to Michael Jackson

Related Stories:
Jeff Beck Opens Up About Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Gigs With Clapton, Jeff Beck Group Reunion Prospects
Rod Stewart Reunites With Jeff Beck at Los Angeles Concert
Metallica, Run-DMC, Jeff Beck Join the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at Wild Induction Ceremony

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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