Jeff Beck bucks trends

Famed guitarist uses vocalists, classical music on new album



photoBritish rock guitarist Jeff Beck performs Oct. 29 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland.

If you go

What: Jeff Beck, in concert.

When: 8 p.m. Oct. 29.

Where: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway, Portland.

Cost: $54.80-$76.35 through Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000 or

On Jeff Beck’s current album, “Emotion & Commotion,” singers Joss Stone and Imelda May provide vocals on three songs.

For Beck, a famed guitarist known for making instrumental music during much of his long solo career, this represents a rather rare event.

“I think that’s what music is all about, jumping from something you’re safe with to something you’re not quite familiar with and maybe just finding another little vibe about yourself,” Beck said.

Beck knows a few things about stepping into the unfamiliar. He’s gone on his share of musical adventures during the course of a solo career that dates back more than four decades.

His first solo efforts, after leaving the famed British group the Yardbirds, were bluesy rocking albums, “Truth” and “Beck-Ola,” which featured a young Rod Stewart on vocals.

In the mid-1970s, Beck ventured boldly into the realm of jazz fusion on his landmark albums “Blow By Blow” and “Wired.”

More recently, he mixed electronic elements with rock and jazz fusion on albums such as 1999’s “Who Else!” and 2001’s “You Had It Coming.”

With “Emotion & Commotion,” Beck has made another adventurous move. On the new release, Beck returns to jazz fusion on “Hammerhead” and “Never Alone.” The sound turns bluesier on “I Put a Spell on You,” where Stone, one of the most raw and powerful singers going today, purrs and moans. And the stormy rocker “There’s No Other Me” gives Beck an opportunity to cut loose.

Even more intriguing are tracks like “Elegy For Dunkirk” and “Nessun Dorma,” which bridge classical music and rock.

According to Beck, he didn’t plan to venture into classical music or make vocal tracks a key facet of “Emotion & Commotion.”

“Let’s just see what we can come up with for a game plan,” Beck recalled producer Steve Lipson saying.

“So I scribbled down a few notes on a blackboard and it grew from there.”

Beck relied heavily on his producer as he built the album. “That’s probably a good way of doing it, if you’ve got the patience not to go in with the songs squared off, all done, dusted,” he said.

Beck, who in 2009 was inducted as a solo artist into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has long been viewed as one of rock’s premier guitarists. He’s built a loyal audience that has consistently allowed him to headline theaters and large clubs. But he’s never had a major hit single or album. Beck said that has some artistic advantages.

“Reflecting back to not having massive quadruple-platinum albums in middle of the road or general Joe Q. Public arenas, that enables me to explore and present my findings,” he said. “And I have fun doing it. So who’s complaining?”