A lot of music world hoopla was made this week when Britney Spears left her standby producers, Dr. Luke and Max Martin. Metallica. The Beatles. When any artist leaves behind an old sound onto a new one, the stakes are costly. But what people don’t know is this is an artist is only as good as his or her producer. The same is true of jazz.
Jim’s newly recorded solo piano CD, “Show Of Hands”, is available on ITunes and Amazon.com.
When people learn that you toured with Steely Dan, is it intimidating that you might need to live up to those expectations? Not that you are any worse or better, but that you would sound different and leave Steely Dan fans confused?
I would guess that most, if not all of my current fans have been following my music since before I joined Steely Dan. And I think those same fans wouldn’t expect a Jim Beard concert to sound like a Steely Dan concert simply because I’ve toured with them. I also think it’s probably pretty difficult to confuse a Steely Dan fan. So there is no intimidation going on in that regard. I also didn’t discover high expectations or standards after joining Steely Dan. I’d like to think that they called me because I had high standards in place already.
What is your favorite thing about traveling the world?
Food. I love all things food. I love to cook and find great restaurants. And I love experiencing what is indigenous about cuisines around the world. Also, getting back to New York at the end of a tour is one of my favorite things about traveling.
Are you finding more younger fans at your concerts now that jazz is widely available on iTunes?
No. But I do think younger audiences are becoming more aware of all types of music and art through the internet in general. I think Youtube is playing a greater role in that than iTunes is.
“Those who can’t do teach.” True or false? When you teach classes, is that because you are taking a break from creating new material…and you may need to be inspired?
False. There are many great teachers who are fantastic performers, just as there are many commercially successful performers who have no business being on a stage or at the front of a classroom. I’ve always known that saying to go: “If you’re not good enough to be a performer, become a teacher. If you’re not good enough to be a teacher, become a critic”. As a rule, I take up teaching on the breaks between tours. Quite often, months of touring are followed by months at home. Teaching at a reputable music institution is something I enjoy. If I need to get into the creative mode to write, that happens at home on my own time.
Are you harder on students than you would be critiquing other musicians?
First of all, I’m hardest on myself. Next would be musicians. But ‘critiquing’ might be the wrong word. As a producer, it falls within my job responsibilities to guide, encourage, correct or reject performances by the musicians in the studio. And I can find myself being ‘hard’ on musicians who I feel have misplaced priorities such as appearance, attitude or antics. Poser is the word that comes to mind here. I always try to be encouraging with students. I also try to teach them to be self critical because that is how they really improve. I am asked on occasion to be on juries for students who are transitioning from undergraduate to graduate or graduate to doctoral level and it is a job requirement to be ‘critical’ in those situations.
Another thought is someone has made it once he or she wins a Grammy. You have won a Grammy. Do you feel like you still have work left to do in your career?
Well, since there is no huge (or any) cash prize that comes with a Grammy, I most certainly have a lot more work left to do in my career. I view having a Grammy as a feather in my cap, not as something that defines me.
What is the most surprising thing that has ever happened in your professional career?
I remember the first big high profile world tour of my career in 1986 with John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. It was our first concert somewhere in Italy. When we arrived at the venue, there were swarms of people lined up at the artist’s entrance waving and pushing and screaming. It was quite a shock for the kid just out of college. I guess you could say it felt like a rock star moment. That tour had a few surprises. At another concert in Italy, the power went out and there was nearly a riot. The police had to be called in to get us out safely.