Mashup Monday: Miles & Jimi

This is the story of arguably the greatest musical collaboration that never happened.
Miles and Jimi were the 20th Century’s #1 musicians in their fields; Rock and Jazz. They were also the two coolest Dudes on the planet! Both had a great line in patter and instantly recognizable voice. They dominated their respective art forms of Rock and Jazz.
The two certainly met, became friends, jammed and talked about recording. Urban myth has is that there was a session planned but someone, some say Mile’s drummer, Tony Williams, demanded $50,000 to play on the session at the last minute and that killed it stone dead.

So, I decided to make it happen forty years later, with guitar technology that Miles and Jimi never had and on a recording platform way above par with their analog tape machines of the 70’s .

So, how did I think they would approach it? Jimi was a lovely man but, out of the two of them, Miles was the bandleader – so I assumed they would do one of his tracks. I’m sure Miles could play on any of Jimi’s material at the drop of a hat, his talent was timeless and limitless. He reinvented jazz every decade he was playing.

Mile’s band leading strategy was to gather players around him who made him look good. He created the groove and let his guys run free. Mostly it worked but sometimes it didn’t! Jack Johnson is the ultimate Miles groove, no so esoteric as Bitches Brew/Live Evil albums; Jimi would be right at home.

Jack Johnson is also my all time fave Miles album, albeit not one of his best known. It was the soundtrack to the movie about the legendary black boxer Jack Johnson. I think that Miles horn was at its best here. No Harmon mute during most of it.

It’s a long track, eleven minutes, and Miles does not come in until the 2 minute 40 mark. But how he comes in is classic, on the least obvious place – the 7th sixteenth on the 85th bar. Then it’s none stop Miles blowing his heart out and the guitar in conversation with it.

Jimi Hendrix was a jazz musician. That statement may surprise you if your idea of jazz is an acoustic classical jazz trio or quartet. To me jazz is anything that constantly avoids the obvious progression and goes someplace new. Jimi’s improvisations certainly did that, flying off at tangents into some other (possibly drug fueled) universe.

I am not so misguided as to say this is exactly how Jimi would have played it, this is merely one of many possible outcomes. People forget just how good Jimi was. He was a force of nature and a virtuoso player so I don’t claim my effort to be in his league. All I’m saying is, if I had a buck for every time I played Purple Haze in my youth, I’d be rich!

I’ve avoided the straightforward solo because well, you couldn’t just play Red House over it – plus there weren’t any sections on the original that would fit. Mile’s horn was sacrosanct, I wouldn’t dare mess with that so I opted for the general remit of the Psychedelic approach! Jimi could make his guitar ‘talk’ by using feedback and his whammy bar (tremolo arm) on his Fender Stratocaster. That’s what I ended up doing, by accident really. I just got in the zone and feverishly hit ‘record’ – I laid it down in pretty much in one take.

I’m a big fan of John McLaughlin who played guitar on the original session. I do what he did, weave an improvised rhythm track alongside Mile’s horn. Sometimes not even notes just sounds. I put a bit of Jimi’s narration because that’s something he often did.

I hope you like it and receive it in the respectful spirit to which it was intended. I know some jazz purists might look down their noses at the very idea. To them I would say – look, jazz needs to evolve, not be left to die. If you still don’t like it then I offer you Mile’s favorite phrase – SO WHAT!

Benny Sutton


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