Jeff Beck, Ronnie Scott's, London

Ronnie Scott's, London

It is dinner time in Soho, but Ronnie's seems set for a fusion version of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. Stage right, lips pursed over his keyboards, is the Dormouse-like Jason Rebello. Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, sticks a-blur, is the high-speed March Hare. Bassist Tal Wilkenfeld, solemn and wide-eyed, is Alice. And our host - eloquently dominating every conversation - is guitarist Jeff Beck. The band is good, but it is Beck, on the first of a five-night, six-show residency, that we have come to hear, for every Beck-ish variation on the blues, rock, jazz, metal and Indo-jazz idioms he commands so effortlessly.

Beck appears to be thinking about the timbre of his guitar all the time, whether playing the fluid, appealing melody to Nadia, the hard-rocking riffs of Led Boots, or one of his endlessly inventive solos. Wilkenfeld is a suitably self-effacing foil, keeping it low and dirty for Brush With the Blues, and high and McCartney-ish for Day in the Life. When she solos in Cause We've Ended As Lovers, Beck beams in a grandfatherly way.

It is enlightening to see a master drummer such as Colaiuta in a small club. Slower tunes such as Blanket (by guest singer Imogen Heap) and Behind the Veil provide a chance to see how he does it. Other guests - Joss Stone, possibly Eric Clapton - are rumoured for the remaining five shows.

The band treat numbers such as Blast From the East the way Cern scientists construct accelerators: faster = better. By the end of the last gig on Saturday, there is a chance that the breakneck tune Scatterbrain will actually end before the intro.

· Until Saturday. Box office: 020-7439 0747.


John L Walters

The GuardianTramp

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