For Joe Beck
Donald W. Mohr & Josh Peters
A Jazz duo that sounds like a trio record thanks to an innovative guitar design.
I was nineteen when I met Joe Beck. He was playing a concert at a small music school in Briarcliff Manor, New York, where I was preparing for my time at Berklee College of Music. My exposure to jazz was limited to the mainstream household names, including Miles Davis, and here’s Joe Beck, who was the guitarist on Circle In The Round, the first guitarist Miles Davis had ever recorded with. We’re in a room that was about twice the size of the your living room with maybe fifteen people in attendance, though I remember the weather being particularly bad, and here’s Joe Beck playing his Alto Guitar with the great Alto Flautist, Ali Ryerson and I had only been studying jazz seriously for a few months. Needless to say, it had a profound impact on me, and it’s why I made this album.
Joe was selling CDs and I bought two, both were from the Ali Ryerson Duo albums. I regret not buying his quartet album as well, but the duo albums had his Alto guitar and I was infatuated with the idea of playing bass and guitar simultaneous. Those records introduced me to the concept of pop covers done in a jazz setting, as I hadn’t yet heard Miles doing Time After Time, Charlie Hunter’s Natty Dread, or Brad Mehldau’s Largo. I got to know Joe, but unfortunately fell out of contact before his passing. He really wanted me to buy one of the last of his signature Cort Alto guitars at the time. Only 200 or so were made and I regret not finding the money for it at the time. They rarely turn up for sale so if you know a friend trying to sell one, please let me know.
In 2014, I got the Fender Baritone Telecaster played on this album with the intention to eventually implement the technical ideas from the Alto Guitar, such as the tuning with the two middle strings sounding an octave higher than a standard baritone guitar, and the stereo outputs. It took 3 years to put together the parts and find Paul at ubertar.com to make the pickups. I decided to add the hipshot B/G bender with drop d lever to the design as it was already a very different guitar to the Joe Beck Alto, which is tuned A to A instead of B to B and his was a hollow-body jazz guitar where #JoeTheGuitar is a solid body with multiple pickups. Also, Joe’s Alto guitar didn’t have a Hipshot B/G Bender but I found one at an incredible price. Unfortunately, the bridge I paid handsomely for. I couldn’t find anyone to do the wiring so I had to learn how to wire a guitar and spent 6 hours in April of 2017 wiring everything, finishing on Easter. I started recording a week later and after listening back, Josh and I decided to spend July 17, 2017 taking another shot and adding a few additional pieces I had written to this album. All of these tracks are continuous takes and the performances have not been edited. They were recorded to my trusty Tascam 688 that I do most of the other Get Off My Lawn Records releases with. You can see it on #FreeformFridays on YouTube.
A huge thank you to Millicent Hughes and Carissa Gragg both for making the operation of the tape machine happen and helping keep the project organized. I hope you enjoy this album as much as we enjoyed making it for you.
Donald W. Mohr Founder, Get Off My Lawn Records