Joe Beck and Ali Ryerson – Alto


We start this month with a very cool album. It features Joe Beck on alto guitar (three pairs of strings in three separate registers), Ali Ryerson on alto flute, and Steve Davis on very tasteful and unobtrusive percussion.

The tunes are mostly standards, but they are given new life by the very nice sound these instruments make together. It’s quiet, but it’s fiery. There’s a definite gentleness, but it’s never boring. Old warhorses like “Willow Weep For Me,” “Billie’s Bounce,” “Joy Spring,” and even “Ode to Billy Joe” and a beautiful medley of “Scarborough Fair”/”Norwegian Wood” sound wonderful.

Beck’s been around awhile. His experience runs the gamut. I own some fusion-style albums from the ’70s. I’ve heard some brilliant studio work he’s done (you really have to hear his blues solo on a version of “Kansas City” by Libby Titus in the ’70s – just incredible!). He’s also noted for being the first guitarist to work with Miles Davis. Ryerson’s throaty alto is just gorgeous. Whether beautifully stating melodies or adding a bit to the original flavor, she never falters.

I can’t recommend this enough. It’s one of those albums that prove simple is best. And by that I don’t mean simple playing. I mean three people in a room doing a terrific job on some great tunes.

This review originally appeared in VG‘s March ’98 issue.

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