Jump to content

Gordon Beck

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gordon Beck
Born(1935-09-16)16 September 1935
Brixton, London, England
Died6 November 2011(2011-11-06) (aged 76)
Ely, Cambridgeshire, England
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Years active1960–mid-2000s

Gordon James Beck (16 September 1935[1] – 6 November 2011) was an English jazz pianist and composer. At the time of his death, 26 albums had been released under his name.[2]

Early life[edit]

Beck was born in Brixton, London, and attended Pinner County Grammar School – the school Reg Dwight (Elton John) and Simon Le Bon later attended. He had a sister, Judy.[3] He studied piano in his youth, but decided to pursue a career as an engineering technical draughtsman[4] and moved to Canada in 1957 for this reason.[2]

Later life and career[edit]

Largely self-taught, he returned to music after returning from Canada in 1958, where he had been exposed to the works of George Shearing and Dave Brubeck.[2][5]

Beck became a professional musician in 1960.[2] That year, he played with saxophonist Don Byas in Monte Carlo.[3] Beck joined the Tubby Hayes group in 1962 back in England.[2] He led his own bands from 1965, including Gyroscope, from 1968, a trio with bassist Jeff Clyne and drummer Tony Oxley.[3] Beck first played with vocalist Helen Merrill in 1969 and continued the relationship into the 1990s when she toured Europe.[3] From 1969 to 1972 he toured with saxophonist Phil Woods's European Rhythm Machine. Beck recorded ten albums with Woods.[2]

In the 1960s and 1970s he was a house pianist at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club.[3] Beck also played "experimental funk in the Swiss musician George Gruntz's six-keyboard group Piano Conclave (1973-75), and free jazz with [...] British improv drummer John Stevens (1977, 1982)."[3] Beck was a member of Nucleus between 1973 and 1974.[3]

From middle age, Beck played predominantly in mainland Europe.[3] He also recorded albums with Allan Holdsworth, Henri Texier, Didier Lockwood and others. He often played solo from the 1980s and started teaching music at the same point.[3] He toured Japan with Holdsworth in 1985.[2] Beck stopped performing around 2005 because of poor health.[2] He died in Ely, Cambridgeshire, on 6 November 2011.[2]

Playing style[edit]

Describing Beck, in his obituary for The Guardian, jazz critic John Fordham said: "He hardly ever played a cliche; he struck notes with a steely precision or a glistening delicacy depending on the mood, and his solos developed in constantly changing phrase lengths and rhythms that never sounded glib or routine."[3]


  1. ^ "Search Results for England & Wales Births 1837-2006 - findmypast.co.uk". search.findmypast.co.uk. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Voce, Steve (11 November 2011) "Gordon Beck: Pianist Renowned for His Work with Tubby Hayes". Independent.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Fordham, John (14 November 2011). "Gordon Beck Obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  4. ^ "Jazz breaking news: Jazz Pianist And Composer Gordon Beck Dies". Jazzwisemagazine.com. Archived from the original on 25 October 2015. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  5. ^ "Gordon Beck". DoTheMath.typepad.com. 12 January 2012. Archived from the original on 17 January 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2012.

External links[edit]