Jeff Beck: Freeway Jam
Jeff Beck (guitar)
Blow by Blow (Epic EK 33409)
Phil Chenn (bass), Richard Bailey (drums).
Composed by Max Middleton.
Recorded: London, England, 1975
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
"Freeway Jam" could have easily been placed on Jeff Beck's more fusion-driven Wired album the next year and feel totally at home. Funk jazz-rock is what this tune is all about. In fact, its bassline and rhythm are quite similar to Michael Henderson's efforts on Miles Davis's seminal "Right Off" from A Tribute to Jack Johnson. Beck was ready to dive into the deep end of the pool. He is a master of the whammy bar, and this is one of those tunes you can't imagine without it. "Freeway Jam" was written by Max Middleton, who is an overlooked figure in fusion history. He often plays the melody along with Beck. They jell. "Freeway Jam" is one rollicking fusion number that should be in everyone's collection.
Reviewer's aside: Sometimes while writing, an instantaneous thought comes out of nowhere and I write it down. My comment about Max Middleton being overlooked is a perfect example. After I wrote that I started wondering why this has occurred. In this case, I believe the answer is clear. Once Jan Hammer and Jeff Beck recorded a live version of "Freeway Jam" together a couple of years later, people began to associate the tune with Hammer. I think to this day many fans believe Hammer wrote the piece. Now it is a sure thing that many other reasons exist for Middleton's relatively low profile, not the least being the fact he doesn't seem to have done much over the years. (I looked it up.) Remarkably, he released his first solo album in 2007! Fame is a fickle thing – especially if you want it to be.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky