This 1975 Kudu album by Joe Beck was never reissued on CD in the United States but available only as a Japanese import on the King label. Beck is a masterpiece of mid-'70s funky jazz and fusion. Beck retired in 1971 to be a dairy farmer. He returned to make this album his opus. Featuring David Sanborn, Don Grolnick, Will Lee, and Chris Parker, all of the album's six tracks were recorded in two days. Overdubs were done in another day and the minimal strings added by Don Sebesky were added on a third day. "Star Fire" opens the set and features the interplay of Beck's riffing and lead fills with Sanborn's timely, rhythmic legato phrasing, and the communication level is high and the groove level even higher. On "Texas Ann," another Beck original, Sanborn hits the blues stride from the jump, but Beck comes in adding the funk underneath Grolnick's keyboard while never losing his Albert Collins' feel.
Studio and session guitarist Joe Beck was best known for hits when backing vocalist Esther Phillips on Kudu in the '70s. During the '80s he made a series of competent fusion and pop/jazz recordings for DMP and had a big hit recording with Dave Sanborn on CTI in 1975. His career continued into the '90s and beyond with albums like 1991's Relaxin', 1997's Alto and his 2000 collaboration with Jimmy Bruno, Polarity.
At 45, Joe Beck bragged that The Journey contained "the best playing I've ever recorded." One tends to greet such lofty statements with a healthy amount of skepticism, but in this case, the artist had something to back it up. Even if The Journey isn't necessarily the best album Beck has ever recorded as a leader, it's certainly among his best. The guitarist's playing is confident and inspired throughout the post-bop/fusion album, and he definitely goes that extra mile on well-known standards like Bronislaw Kaper's "Invitation" and Benny Golson's "Killer Joe" as well as such Beck originals as the emotional "Quidado," the haunting "I Don't Know," and the intriguing title track.
Beck is back! A perfectionist, gifted with a sharp sense of self-criticism, Joe Beck (born on July 29, 1945, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia) was making good music (and a lot of money) when he disappeared from the NY music scene in 1971 to become a dairy farmer in Vermont. After his professional debut with Paul Winter’s group in 1964, he had played with such masters as Gary McFarland, Charles Lloyd, Chico Hamilton, and Gil Evans, on whose orchestra he was a member from 1967 to 1971. (One of his best albums with Evans, Where Flamingos Fly, only came out ten years later on the Artists House label).