Originally from Philadelphia, Beck enjoyed a career spanning over four decades during which he exhibited a wide stylistic range, performing and recording with a Who's Who of musicians that included Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Duke Ellington, Buddy Rich, Paul Desmond, Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, Stan Getz, Larry Coryell, Gene Ammons, Sergio Mendes, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Laura Nyro, Houston Person, Roger Kellaway, Richie Havens, Paul Simon, Joe Farrell, James Brown, Gato Barbieri, Mike Mainieri, John Babarian and David Sanborn. He was equally at home in a jazz-rock setting, such as his CTI albums with Joe Farrell in the 1970s, the more intimate sound-world of his later duo with alto flutist Ali Ryerson, for which he designed a special alto guitar, or his collaboration with flamenco guitarist Sabicas.
Beck was also a successful composer, arranger, and producer for TV and film, working with such artists as Frank Sinatra, Gloria Gaynor, and Esther Phillips, recording with the Royal Philharmonic orchestra in London, the Milan Philharmonic in Italy, and The Paris String Ensemble in France. He received the Most Valuable Player Award five times from National Academy of Recording Arts And Sciences.
Joe Beck's first professional gig was with Paul Winter's group in 1964. Stints with Gary McFarland, Charles Lloyd and Chico Hamilton followed until, in 1967, he joined the Gil Evans orchestra, staying until 1971. During this period he also worked with Miles Davis -- the first guitarist to do so -- became a regular sideman for CTI Records, and began to record under his own name on the Verve label. From these beginnings, Beck built an extensive, highly diverse, but always high-quality discography.
It was not always plain sailing for him. Citing disillusionment with the business, Beck quit the music scene at one point and spent three years working as a dairy farmer. Returning in the mid-'70s, Beck picked up where he had left off, recording for several labels including more work for CTI and its Japanese spin off Kudu Records, as well as for Polydor, Columbia and, from the mid 80s until 2001, for DMP, with another hiatus on the dairy farm between 1988 and 1991. His most recent release was a duo session for Coincidence with fellow guitarist John Abercrombie.
He is survived by his wife, Marsi, and five children.
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