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Jeff Beck Talks Jimi Hendrix, the British Blues Explosion

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Author Topic: Jeff Beck Talks Jimi Hendrix, the British Blues Explosion  (Read 146 times)
Crista Rodenkirk
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Posts: 1200

« on: March 14, 2016, 10:00:36 pm »

One of the most ambitious tracks on Emotion & Commotion is your presentation of “Nessun dorma,” from Puccini’s opera, Turandot. Also, you share the melody of “Elegy for Dunkirk” with opera singer Olivia Safe. Are you a classical music fan? — Bruno Curreri

Around the time I did my recording of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, I was looking for some other pieces to record. One that I liked very much was Ravel’s “Pavane,” so I learned that, and I was listening to what they were playing on the Albert Hall Prom [The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts]. Every year they have a prom, which is a big music festival. I’m looking away from rock and roll into proper, serious melodies, and, for me, it has been a good playground to look into. And [the late opera singer Luciano] Pavarotti never ceases to amaze me; the bellowing—the big, deep, proper opera singing—is something I love, and I was keen to try “Nessun dorma,” which he sang magnificently.

My guitar is not a voice, and it’s not his voice; I played it like a spirited, bluesy thing. That’s what I was trying to do: make the guitar do things it’s not supposed to do.

Your DVD, Performing this Week … Live at Ronnie Scott’s, features a set list that spans your entire career. Does each of those songs have a special meaning for you? — Irene Coco

When I first went out with the band with Tal [Wilkenfeld] and Vinnie [Colaiuta], we were short of new material to play, so I thought, Why not do a “quicky” trip back through time, and put some of the early stuff in there? Albeit without Rod [Stewart]. We did “People Get Ready” and stuff like that. I think it added up to quite a good journey back through history, so anyone that hadn’t seen me got a snapshot of what was going on back in ’66 and ’68.

As opposed to bombarding people with brand-new, avant-garde techno, I thought it would be better to establish a foundation for people to hear and it seemed to work. Two of the songs at the start of the set, [John McLaughlin’s] “Eternity’s Breath” [from 1975’s Visions of the Emerald Beyond] and [Billy Cobham’s] “Stratus” [from 1973’s Spectrum], I played because I want people to realize that music was around, plus it’s still fun to play.

I’m just a messenger for John on those songs, because I want people to listen to him. If people enjoy my version of it, then my job is done. John is so far ahead of his time—he really is. He’s not half as well known as I’d like him to be. Those songs are played with the most heartfelt respect. Nowadays, to really sort out the men from the boys, John plays mostly acoustic, which cannot be bluffed.

Billy Cobham’s Spectrum album gave life to me at the time, on top of the Mahavishnu records featuring [keyboardist] Jan Hammer. It represented a whole area that was as exciting to me as when I first heard “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley. They were inspirational to me to the point that I started to adopt that type of music. Tommy Bolin’s guitar playing on Spectrum is fantastic. What a sad loss; he was on the tour when I was out with Jan in 1976, and Tommy died after the first night of the tour in Miami. I heard the news the next morning.

Can you talk about Les Paul’s influence on you as a guitar player? — Dan Holland

Les is sadly missed, but he had a great life and he gave us so much more than just the guitar. I’ve always been a huge fan, and his guitar playing inspired me a great deal. I was glad to have had the chance to get to know him.

For more about Jeff Beck, visit his official website and Facebook page (both of which could use a bit of updating).
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