Max Middleton on Apple Music

Max Middleton

Max Middleton is best known as the pianist in the second, most successful version of Jeff Beck Group. Middleton was trained as a classical pianist but also possessed a strong affinity for jazz, and had played in a band called Flare with Trinidad-born bassist Clive Chaman. His hook up with Beck came about in the spring of 1971, while the guitarist was rehearsing the lineup of his reconstituted band (including Chaman) and decided that he needed a pianist. At 20, Middleton was one of the youngest players on the early-'70s blues-rock scene, and his youth, coupled with his devotion to jazz, quickly made him a mainstay of Beck's group -- his jazz piano was one of the more successful new elements introduced on the Rough and Ready album, and on the next LP, Jeff Beck Group, Middleton also wrote an outstanding instrumental track entitled "Definitely Maybe." Middleton was also the only member to make the jump from the second version of Jeff Beck Group to the third, which was really the prototypal Beck, Bogert & Appice, but he left before that trio had gotten far into their short-lived hook up. He passed through a group called Gonzales before rejoining Beck in 1974 -- with other core members of Gonzales soon to follow -- to collaborate with the guitarist on the instrumental Blow By Blow album, which became the top-selling LP of Beck's whole career, reaching number four on the American charts. Middleton also played clavinette on the Wired album that followed, after which he parted company with the guitarist.

In the wake of his work with Jeff Beck, Middleton's career fairly exploded, and he became ever busier as the 1970s wore on -- he passed through membership in the Hummingbirds, alongside his fellow Jeff Beck Group/Flare alumni Bob Tench and Clive Chaman, and did session work with everyone from Pete Brown to Kate Bush, and he played extensively with Chris Rea throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Middleton's most familiar contributions to popular music, however, remain his work with Jeff Beck. Beyond his actual playing, Beck has described the pianist as his most significant collaborator during the most commercially successful period of his career; Middleton's fluency in jazz chords forced the blues-rock guitar virtuoso to extend himself and his music in new and unexpected directions. ~ Bruce Eder

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