Joe Beck Trio: Joe Beck (guitar); Mark Egan (bass); Danny Gottlieb (drums).
Joe Beck (Guitar): Joe Beck ; Mark Egan (bass guitar); Danny Gottlieb (drums).
Personnel: Joe Beck (guitar).
Recording information: JAB Productions, Inc., Woodbury, CT; Wavetone Studios, Warick, NY.
The jazz world is full of jazz snobs -- that is, myopic, narrow-minded people who only care about straight-ahead jazz and believe that rock, R&B, country, reggae, dance-pop, folk, and hip-hop have no right to exist. But Joe Beck isn't one of them; he's an admirably versatile guitarist who has crossed paths with everyone from Gene "Jug" Ammons to Frank Sinatra to disco-soul goddess Gloria Gaynor. Unfortunately, Beck has spent so much time backing others that his own catalog isn't as large as it should be, but he still has a lot to be proud of -- and this 2002 release is an appealing addition to his r‚sum‚. A generally straight-ahead jazz effort (with some fusion moves here and there), Just Friends finds a 57-year-old Beck in a trio with bassist Mark Egan and drummer Danny Gottlieb and paying a lot of attention to well-known standards. One could complain about the abundance of warhorses that have been beaten to death over the years -- "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise," "There Will Never Be Another You," Cole Porter's "I Love You," and the title track are great songs, but how many more versions do jazz enthusiasts need to hear in the 21st century? That said, Beck's playing is focused and inspired throughout the CD. You might think that Just Friends (which also contains three Beck originals) pays too much attention to overdone warhorses, but damned if Beck doesn't play the hell out of them. And the fact that he enjoys an obviously strong rapport with Egan and Gottlieb is also a plus. Just Friends falls short of essential, but it's still a solid -- if conventional -- outing for the veteran jazz guitarist. ~ Alex Henderson