Tom has been in love with playing the vibraphone since age 14. Much of his inspiration came early from hearing the music of artists such as Milt Jackson, Count Basie, and Wes Montgomery broadcast from nearby Washington D.C. jazz radio stations, a family staple of entertainment. His mallet training began with extensive study of the classical literature, solo marimba literature, performances with orchestras in the D.C. area. then to vibraphone, jazz and other improvised music. “I remember particular point as a teen where I had been playing timpani in a string ensemble, rehearsing with a rock band on drums, learning the Bach Ciccone on marimba, and discovering my first Bill Evans record.
I arrived at Berklee with my drums and my vibes, but after the first semester I hauled the drums back home and didn’t look back—I was hooked on the vibes.” At Berklee he studied with Gary Burton, Ed Saindon and Hal Crook, among others. After graduating Cum Laude in 1990 he moved to New York to immerse himself in the New York music scene where — further extending many of his musical relationships that began in Boston.
As a leader, his latest release, Center Songs (Apria, 2006), clearly demonstrates his mature skills as both a writer and an improviser while utilizing some of the finest younger-generation New York musicians: pianist Henry Hey (Joe Locke, Bill Evans, Seamus Blake), saxophonist Chris Cheek (Paul Motian, Brian Blade), bassist John Hebert (Andrew Hill, Greg Osby, Tony Malaby), and drummer Diego Voglino (Steven Bernstein, Sam Newsome, Josh Roseman). Nine originals communicate the vibists diverse set of influences while engaging the musicians in close rapport.
His debut CD Suspicions, released on the Fresh Sound New Talent label, featured Chris Cheek, George Schuller (Schulldogs), and Reid Anderson (The Bad Plus). The All Music Guide (AMG) wrote of Suspicions “Tom Beckham's accessible, laid-back compositions and resplendent playing style make Suspicions an album worth seeking out. ...a superior conceptualist.” Jazztimes magazine wrote “His debut session, Suspicions, delivers a solid dose of clear-eyed hard bop.” Jazz Review magazine wrote: “Yet more than anything what this set seems most to resemble is the straight-ahead, post-Blue Note kinds of bands that Bobby Hutcherson put together. That’s what makes it work: it feels like a band.”
As a sideman, Tom plays in George Schuller’s Circle Wide, whose 2004 release ‘Round About Now (Playscape) received rave reviews for it’s treatment of Miles Davis’ pre-electric era compositions. He also plays on Sam Bardfeld’s Periodic Trespasses–The Saul Cycle (2005, Fresh Sound New Talent). He has also plaed in bands led by Ron Horton, Muchael Musillami, J. Walter Hawkes, The Moonlighters and, over the years, in a host of musical settings with musicians such as bassists Matt Penman, Reid Anderson, Gary Wang, Dave Ambrosio, Ben Allison, Matt Pavolka, pianists
Ben Waltzer, Henry Hey, Aaron Goldberg, Bryn Roberts, drummers Jochen Ruckert, Dan Weiss, Mark Ferber, Tim Horner, guitarists Ben Monder, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Brad Shepik, Tom Guarna, saxophonists Donny McCaslin, Michael Blake, Bill McHenry, Seamus Blake, Tom Christenson, John Ellis, trumpet players Ingrid Jensen, and Russ Johnson, and many others.
He has also performed and recorded as a featured soloist with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) in a series of recordings of Gunther Schuller’s visionary “Concertino”, “Variants for Jazz Orchestra.” and “Sketches On a Theme by Thelonius Monk.”
Tom has performed at the JVC, Zurich, and Rochester jazz festivals, halls such as Carnegie Hall, Jordan Hall, Hammerstein Ballroom, and many NY area clubs such as Smalls, Fat Cat, Birdland, Kavehaz, The Fez, Cornelia Street Cafe, and Barbes.