Jim Beard: Diana




Jim Beard (Fender Rhodes, synthesizers)


Song of the Sun (CTI 847 926-2)

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Jim Beard (Fender Rhodes, synthesizers), 'Toots' Thielemans (harmonica),

Jon Herington (guitar), Victor Bailey (bass), Dennis Chambers (drums), Don Alias (percussion), Mino Cinelu (whistle)


Composed by Jim Beard


Recorded: Stamford, CT, Summer 1990


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

At 15, keyboardist and composer Jim Beard met the great George Shearing, who took an interest in the young musician and over the years spent time with him helping him refine his art. In the mid-'80s, Beard met saxophonist Bill Evans, who was in John McLaughlin's new Mahavishnu. Evans played a Beard recording for McLaughlin. The next thing you know, the composition is on McLaughlin's new record. Then Beard is in his band. Then Wayne Shorter hears him. Shorter and Beard go on to form a musical relationship that lasts over a decade. Beard has also played with a who's who of the jazz and music world since, and has even won a Grammy. Still, most people have never heard of him, and that is a shame. He seems to be a low-key guy on stage, and perhaps that contributes to his relatively low profile. But his composing and playing puts him in the highest rankings of contemporary players.

"Diana" is a stunningly beautiful and understated ballad. Literally built mostly around just six notes, its languorous sing-songy theme evokes the pure innocence of childhood. In fact, at times it sounds like one of those themes they used to use on Saturday afternoon kid movie shows. (I mean that in a good way.) I think one of the reasons is the harmonica of the legendary Toots Thielemans. Though Beard and Thielemans play the refrain together, Beard allows Toots to steal this tune. His playing is absolutely gorgeous. In the hands and on the lips of such harp masters as Thielemans, Stevie Wonder, John Popper and the late Larry Adler, the harmonica is anything but a child's toy. But it is also one of the first instruments kids try to play, and thus it does have a childlike quality. "Diana" turns serious in parts, if only to remind us that innocence can become lost. I have no idea who Diana was or is. But I know she is special.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky


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