“Everyone told me I was crazy,” laughs Jeremy Beck. “They’d ask, ‘What are you going to do with a band this big?’”
A better question, it seems, might have been what can’t you do with a band this big? Blurring the lines between vintage soul, gospel, and rock, Jeremy Beck & The Heavy Duty Horns are an intoxicating musical powerhouse with a bold sound and a broad range, the kind of shape shifting collective that boasts versatility and virtuosity in equal measure. Fueled by a phalanx of funky horns and anchored by Beck’s mesmerizing keyboards and vocals, the 8-piece NYC band draws on decades of influence in their music, filtering everything from Prince and Lou Rawls to Tower of Power and Blood, Sweat & Tears through a modern lens. The result is ‘Take Me By The Hand,’ the group’s exhilarating debut and Beck’s first foray into the spotlight as a frontman.
“I’ve spent my whole career playing with other artists,” says Beck, who’s toured and performed with everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Missy Elliott. “It’s been really rewarding, but it just felt like time to take the next step. I was ready to figure out what my music actually sounded like.”
The roots of that sound stretch all the way back to rural Alabama, where Beck was raised in the Evangelical church. His first introduction to music came from the gospel choirs he heard on Sunday mornings, and as a youngster, he began taking classical piano lessons like his older brother. He fell in love with New Orleans piano as a teenager, and by the time he was in college, he was regularly skipping classes to travel to The Big Easy, where he’d spend his nights onstage in the city’s iconic clubs and bars and his days studying one-on-one with the kind of teachers you couldn’t find in any school.
“These older guys could play their asses off,” says Beck, “but they’d learned totally by ear, so they had no idea how to write down any of this amazing stuff they knew. I was taking all these advanced music theory courses at school, so I’d just ask them to play and then I’d memorize everything they were doing. Being in that kind of environment just blew my mind, and it was the best education I could have asked for.”
After finishing college, Beck headed to New York, where his prodigious talents earned him steady work as a sideman and first-call studio player. In fact, it was at a recording session that the concept for Jeremy Beck & The Heavy Duty Horns was born.