Guitarist, and one of the foremost exponents of the Hendrix legacy, was a member of Defunkt in the late ’70s, Ronald Shannon Jackson’s Decoding Society and Living Colour in the ’80s. His current band is Masque.
For me, it was Band of Gypsys. I was in high school in the early ’70s. There was a kid in a couple of classes above me, a senior, who said, “You play guitar? You oughta listen to Hendrix.” I remember seeing Hendrix on the Dick Cavett show because back then if anyone black showed up on TV it was news—like “gather the family around.” I remember he was wearing all blue and I thought, “Wow, that’s so different.” But I was just a kid and my focus was elsewhere. I was more struck by the sight of him; I wasn’t really listening so intently to the music. But later on I started listening to Hendrix and it blew my mind.
This was at the time when the Vietnam War had been going on so long that I was actually wondering was it going to last long enough for them to draft me. It just seemed like there was no way out of it—just this endless quagmire. So hearing Jimi’s “Machine Gun” [from Band of Gypsys] really made quite a statement at that time. It was like a movie about war without the visuals. It had everything—the lyrics, the humanism of it, the drama of it, the violence of it, the eeriness of it, the unpredictability of it. I can’t imagine what it was like to have been in the Fillmore East and have that happen in the second set. If you were there it had to have changed your life, if not forever at least for a little while.
As far as electric lead-guitar soloing, Hendrix was one of the only cats to do that activity and have it extend beyond the notion of chops and scales or anything to where it literally melded itself into the fabric of society and the big questions of the day. And to my mind he did it twice. He did it with “Machine Gun” and he did it with “The Star Spangled Banner.” And in both instances, his playing, his improvising was woven into the fabric of the times. It was like Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Those were the kind of times that they were, and it seemed like only those times could have produced him.
On a playing level, Jimi was coming from a blues aesthetic, but he was a modernist. He took on Hubert Sumlin and Albert King but he was also of his time, the ’60s —and all that meant. He was certainly a great improviser but when you listen to Hendrix’s solo there’s a certain palette harmonically that he works with. It’s basically the blues—a lot of dominant chords, major and minor, the occasional altered dominant chord like a 7th, D sharp 9, 11th chords. But it’s not like he’s dealing with the same palette as Wes Montgomery. He’s not dealing with bebop. At the same time, he’s not limited by anything. He just plays. You put him in any situation, I think, and he would play something profound. Because he’s not thinking about “This is wrong.” He’s not coming from “I’m wrong here and I need to fix it.” He just plays.
Hendrix arrived at some special place in the mid-’60s. He obviously worked very hard and he took a genius leap. Because there are recordings of Hendrix with Curtis Knight and King Curtis and he sounds like a decent rhythm-guitar player. But he took the same fundamental leap that Charlie Parker took in his own right; that Ornette Coleman took. He took the great leap forward. And I think it’s fascinating when individuals do that because it seems like an individual is doing it but it’s like a whole network of things coming together to make that happen. There’s a whole community of voices in an individual coming together that are informing what ultimately results in him taking a leap. Leaving Seattle was taking a leap. I mean, we are a nation filled with Charlie Parkers and Jimi Hendrixes. The question is, Who is gonna take that leap into the great nowhere? And the great nowhere is [this]: no one approves of it. There was no agreement on Hendrix’s greatness when he first came out. Even when you read reviews it’s like “the guy’s playing too loud, who does he think he is, he’s a clown, he’s jumping around.” He obviously took some moves from T-Bone Walker’s playbook but he had a vision thing, too. He went forward, forward, forward. He’s daunting in that he really always poses a challenge, like Picasso: “OK, this is what I did. It’s there in your life. Now you got to find it.”
Hendrix was a series of collisions and accidents and chances taken and leaps of faith. Plus, he had a certain kind of unassailable integrity that was always under assault, even by his fans, because everyone wanted him to be the Hendrix that they wanted him to be. So he was in constant turmoil with the management scene, with relationships, all of that. So if Hendrix hadn’t choked on his own vomit—well, he woulda had a life.
I would love to commission artists to come up with alternate histories of Hendrix. Hendrix is turned over, he doesn’t die, what happens then? Does Hendrix join Emerson, Lake & Palmer? Does he hook up with Miles Davis? Does he join King Crimson? Does he break his band up, go to Jamaica and become a Rastafarian? Does he move to India or Morocco? Does he go into retirement? Does something even worse happen to him— “Foxy Lady” wine coolers or whatever? Does he get married and have a daughter who is a brilliant saxophonist who becomes the next Coltrane? Does he do the soundtrack to Five Easy Pieces. And what would happen to the music as we know it? Does Hendrix go completely underground or does he get together with Soft Machine or with Patrick Gleeson or Kraftwerk? It’s up for grabs. I would like to think the Hendrix in the early ’70s would’ve done something incredibly progressive for that time period. Like, in another world, maybe it would’ve been Jimi instead of Tommy Bolin playing on Billy Cobham’s Spectrum. Who knows? If Hendrix had lived, would he have hooked up with Marvin Gaye? Good god almighty!
Source : http://jazztimes.com/articles/20150-jimi-hendrix-modern-jazz-axis