Jim Beard, a keyboardist who played with Steely Dan, has died at the age of 63. According to a statement, the composer, producer and arranger died on March 2 "from complications due to a sudden illness."

The musician has been a touring performer with Steely Dan since 2008. Most recently, he was on tour with the band as they supported the Eagles on their Long Goodbye tour. His last show with them was on Jan. 20 in Phoenix.

Beard was born on Aug. 26, 1960, in Philadelphia. By his teens, he was studying arranging with jazz composer and trombonist Don Sebesky and the piano with British keyboardist George Shearing. In college, he played with jazz musicians Slide Hampton and Red Rodney.

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In 1985 Beard moved to New York City, where he continued to pick up gigs and play live and in the studio with jazz and fusion musicians.

Who Else Did Keyboardist Jim Beard Play With?

He became a touring member of guitarist John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu in the mid-'80s and started working with saxophonist Wayne Shorter in 1986. Over the next half-decade, Beard toured with jazz guitarists Joe Scofield and Pat Metheny.

Around this time, Beard released the first of his solo albums, 1990's Song of the Sun. More than a half-dozen followed until a few years ago.

He stayed busy over the decades writing, arranging and performing with dozens of artists, including Bela Fleck, Al Jarreau, John Mayer, Meshell Ndegeocello, David Sanborn, Esperanza Spalding and Steve Vai. In 2008, he was recruited by Steely Dan as their touring keyboardist; he also performed on solo works by late Steely Dan co-founder and guitarist Walter Becker.

The statement announcing Beard's death notes that he died in a New York hospital "surrounded by loved ones" and is survived by a son, daughter, his mother and a brother and sister.

Steely Dan missed some dates on the Eagles tour last fall when leader Donald Fagen fell ill and was in the hospital. The tour will play Chicago this weekend.

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Gallery Credit: Allison Rapp

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