Born: August 26, 1960
Fusion bandleader Jim Beard assembled plenty of major-level talent for his 1990 album Song of the Sun, notably Wayne Shorter, Michael Brecker, and Toots Thielemans.
- Ron Wynn (All Music Guide)
James Arthur Beard (born August 26, 1960 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American jazz pianist and keyboardist, contemporary instrumental composer, arranger and record producer.
Jim Beard is best known as a performer, writer and producer who has had long-standing working relationships with artists like Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, John Scofield, Mike Stern, Dennis Chambers and Bob Berg.
Jim was born in Philadelphia and developed a keen interest in music from a very early age. He first wanted to play tuba (at age 5), then drums and saxophone shortly after. His parents decided that he should start with piano and move to the other instruments later. He began with piano at age seven and his classical teacher for almost twelve years was Mary Anne Rietz. As a teenager, he studied arranging with Don Sebesky and jazz piano with Roland Hanna and also studied privately with George Shearing for several years. He credits as strong influences during his teen years were Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Erroll Garner and the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra as well as Elton John, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan and Earth Wind and Fire. He also studied clarinet, saxophone and double bass all before the age of 15. He took his first overseas tour at the age of sixteen with The American Youth Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Hal Schiff. Jim attended Indiana University studying jazz under David Baker and classical piano under John Ogdon[disambiguation needed] earning a BMD and the highly coveted 'Performers Certificate'. While in university, Jim performed professionally with jazz artists such as Slide Hampton and Red Rodney and was in a bar band who's members included Jon Herington, Kenny Aronoff, Bob Hurst and Chris Botti. Jim's musical influences in his college years were Herbie Hancock, Wynton Kelly and Prince.
Jim moved to New York in 1985 and quickly established himself in the contemporary jazz community. Within a year of arriving, he became a touring member of John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra , started working relationships with Bill Evans (saxophonist) and Mike Stern and had recorded with Dave Liebman. He also began producing many successful recordings for artists such as Mike Stern, Bob Berg. Bill Evans (saxophonist) and Eliane Elias. In 1986 he began a working relationship with Wayne Shorter that lasted until 2000. In 1988 he became a member of John Scofield's band and he toured the world in 1992/1993 with Pat Metheny's 'Secret Story' project.
Jim established himself as a writer during his early New York period by contributing compositions to Michael Brecker and John McLaughlin recordings. Jim is noted for a uniquely eclectic and often whimsical compositional style which can run the spectrum from rich and deeply wild to melodic and childlike. His compositions and arrangements can incorporate elements of humor, unpredictability and classical forms. Many of Beard's compositions have been recorded by top jazz artists, for example "The Wait" by John McLaughlin; "Riddle Me This" by Bob Berg; "In The Hat" by Victor Bailey; "Ode to the Doo Da Day", "Quiet City" and "The Gentleman and Hizcaine" by Michael Brecker and "I'll Miss You" by Bill Evans (saxophonist).
Throughout the 90s and 2000's, Jim Beard has remained very active performing, writing and producing. He is considered to be the 'musicians musician' and has worked in the studio and on stage with Victor Bailey, Rosa Passos, Ralph Bowen, Jon Herington, Steve Vai, Madeleine Peyroux, John Mayer, Walter Becker, Richard Bona, Esperanza Spalding, Steely Dan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Al Jarreau, Dizzy Gillespie. Chris Botti, David Sanborn, Bela Fleck, Larry Carlton, Vince Mendoza and Kenny Garrett taking on musical responsibilities that range from playing piano to programming computer sequencer music to producing.
Jim has released five solo recordings: "Song of the Sun" in 1990 that featured Wayne Shorter and Michael Brecker. "Lost at the Carnival" in 1995. "Truly" in 1997, "Advocate" in 2000 and "Revolutions" in 2008. His music productions and compositions have been nominated for seven Grammy awards and Jim won a Grammy in 2007 as a featured performer on 'Some Skunk Funk' (Randy and Michael Brecker).
Jim Beard has taught at Berklee College of Music in Boston, the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland, and the Aaron Copland School of Music in New York. He has taught graduate-level arranging and composing, improvisation, applied piano, ensemble and has also been juror and mentor for doctoral students.