Jim Beard, Steely Dan keyboardist, dead at 63

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Jim Beard, best known for performing as a keyboardist with Steely Dan, has died aged 63 following a sudden illness.

The musician was born in Pennsylvania in 1960 and began performing live with Steely Dan in 2008 on their Think Fast tour. Over the last 16 years, Beard has been an ever-present during their shows, with his final appearance coming on January 20th at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona, as part of their ongoing tour with The Eagles.

In tribute to Beard, Steely Dan posted on their website: “It is with great sadness that we announce the loss of our friend and colleague JIM BEARD 1960 – 2024.”

In addition to touring with Steely Dan, Beard recorded seven solo albums, with his final offering, Chunks and Chairknobs, arriving in 2019. Additionally, he taught at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, the Mason Gross School of Arts at Rutgers University, the Aaron Copland School of Music in New York, and at Uniarts Helsinki.

Throughout his career as a session musician, Beard received a total of seven Grammy award nominations and won in 2007 for his work on ‘Some Skunk Funk’ by the Brecker Brothers. Other artists he worked with include Dizzy Gillespie, Dianne Reeves and Meshell Ndegeocello.

While speaking with Uniarts Helsinki in 2023, Beard said of Steely Dan and his future plans: “Steely Dan is one of the greatest names in music and the band is incredible. I was a fan when their record came out, so I knew the music.”

He continued: “I have just finished producing a record for Mike Stern. Most of the tracks are played with three guys, Chris Potter, saxophone; Christian McBride, bass and Antonio Sanchez, drums. I also have a whole bunch of new music. I did a project with the Metropole Orchestra with music that I had previously recorded and then arranged for an orchestra. Now I’d like to do another project with them, which would be all new original music.”

Beard is survived by his son and daughter, Victor and Caitlin Beard.

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