Friday, February 10, 2012

The #91 Guitarist of the Rock Era: Jason Becker

Up next in The Top 100 Guitarists*, a guitarist whose career was tragically cut short, for his potential was limitless. 
#91:  Jason Becker
27 years as an active guitarist
(performing Paganini's "5th")

Jason Eli Becker was born July 22, 1969 in Richmond, California.  He developed enthusiasm for the guitar at an early age as both his father and uncle played.  Jason was interested in music from all over the world, and developed his diverse techniques from many musical styles.  He studied the works of violinist Niccolo Paganini.  Becker developed his ability by playing to music from Bob Dylan Eddie Van Halen, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.  Jason became a part of the duo Cacophony with friend Marty Friedman at age 16.  Becker was considered a virtuoso and one of the top guitar players of his time.

Becker went to Kennedy High School, where he met Friedman.  Cacophony put out two albums and toured both the United States and Japan.  European audiences embraced Cacophony, selling out shows everywhere they went.  Nevertheless, Cacophony broke up in 1989.  Becker did the solo album Perpetual Burn in 1988.  He then joined David Lee Roth's band at the age of 20, replacing guitarist Steve Vai, who left to form Whitesnake.  While recording his first album with Roth, Jason was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease or ALS) and was given three to five years to live.  Becker was able to finish the album with some difficulty and was awarded Best New Guitarist from Guitar Magazine.

Becker has lost the ability to play guitar, to walk and to speak and now communicates with his eyes through a system developed by his father.  Despite his disability, Jason continues composing using a computer and has released Collection, a compilation album including his favorite tracks and three new songs.

Vai, Friedman, Paul Gilbert and others recorded to tribute albums to Jason, respectively entitled Warmth in the Wilderness I and Warmth in the Wilderness II.  All profits from the album have gone to help Becker with his medical expenses.

Becker's work included high-speed scalar and arpeggio passages, trademarks of his "shred" style of guitar playing.  He used sweep picking, alternate picking, artificial harmonic accenting and tapping. 

Becker's first guitar was an acoustic Franciscan.  He also played a Takamine acoustic, a Fender Musicmaster and a black Fender Stratocaster with a DiMario Steve Morse humbucker in the bridge in his early days.  While with Cacophony, Becker was endorsed by Hurricane Guitars, and he played a white Hurricane EX Series model with 22 frets and an HSS pickup setup. 

For the second Cacophony album, Jason switched to Carvin, using two DC Series models.  Becker continued to use these until he was diagnosed with ALS.  For the Roth album, Jason used Carvin, Ibanez, ESP, Valley Arts, Les Paul and Gibson guitars.  Recently, Becker allowed Paradise Guitars USA to release a Jason Becker signature guitar.  This signature model is similar to a Peavey with colored number fret inlays.  It features an alder body, a maple neck, a maple 16" radius fingerboard, 24 jumbo thin frets, a black Floyd Rose Pro Style floating Tremolo, Sperzel red satin tuners and a 14 degree tilt-back headstock. 

Becker started out with a small Peavey practice amp.  For the first Cacophony album, Becker upgraded to an ADAMP1 preamp.  He has also used a '70's Marshall half stack, a BOSS Super Overdrive, a Carvin X100B Stack and several different Marshall amps. 

Jason's career may have been cut short, but not his respect. He was considered one of the leaders in his field and is still honored by his peers today. 

Becker ranks #91 for the Rock Era*.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.