‘One of the most under-rated pianists’: Steely Dan’s Jim Beard dies aged 63

Steely Dan keyboardist Jim Beard has died aged 63.

His death in a New York hospital on March 2, announced by a representative, occurred as a result of complications from a sudden illness, Deadline reports.

The multi-talented pianist, keyboardist, composer, producer and arranger was best known for his work with rock band Steely Dan, as well as popular jazz musicians including Wayne Shorter.

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Selfie of Jazz pianist Jim Beard.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Beard launched his music career after moving to New York in his twenties.

He joined Steely Dan in 2008 as their keyboardist. His last performance with the band was on January 20 in Phoenix, Arizona as Steely Dan toured with the Eagles for their Long Goodbye tour.

Steely Dan shared the news of Beard’s passing on their official website on Wednesday.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the loss of our friend and colleague,” the statement read. 

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Alongside his career with Steely Dan, Beard leaves behind an impressive musical legacy.

According to his professional bio, he toured with some music greats, recorded with musicians including Dizzy Gillespie and produced dozens of recordings for artists including Mike Stern and Eliane Elis.

Beard has also produced “over 100 published compositions” and recorded six solo CDs.

Beard’s work has also been nominated for seven Grammy awards. His performance on The Becker Brothers’ album “Some Skunk Funk” won him a Grammy in 2007. 

The well-renowned musician also taught at respected music institutions including the Mason Gross School of Arts and the Berklee College of Music.

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The testimonials page of Beard’s website is filled with “kind words” from critics, colleagues and friends.

“Jim Beard is probably one of the most under-rated pianists of his generation,” D. Moser of the Beijing Web review wrote of his album Truly. 

Of his music, Belgian Jazz musician Toots Thielemans said, “This is the kind of music you live for and hope to play”.