Steely Dan pianist and keyboard player Jim Beard has died, aged 63: “He was the glue and such a great presence on so many projects,” says drummer Peter Erskine

Jim Beard
(Image credit: Moosicus Records)

Grammy-winning pianist and keyboard player Jim Beard, who worked with the likes of Wayne Shorter, Pat Metheny and Steely Dan, has died at the age of 63. 

Born in Philadelphia, Beard studied jazz in his early years and moved to New York in 1985, becoming a touring member of John McLaughlin's fusion outfit, Mahavishnu. His working relationship with Wayne Shorter began in 1986, and continued until 2000.

Other artists who Beard worked with either on stage or in the studio include Steve Vai, John Mayer, Walter Becker, Meshell Ndegeocello and Al Jarreau, and he’d recently been touring with Steely Dan as they supported The Eagles. Deadline reports that he died on 2 March following complications from a sudden illness.

Former Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine was among those paying tribute to Beard: “Jim was the glue and such a great presence on so many projects,” he wrote. “I'm going to miss the man, his wit and his musical incisiveness. You made a difference, Jim.”

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.