My mom bought me the Miles Davis box set, The Cellar Door Sessions for my birthday a couple years ago.
In reading the liner notes, I was struck by the thought that one of the greatest musical tragedies of the early 70s was that Jimi Hendrix never got to make an album with Miles Davis. They had talked about it at some length apparently, with Keith Jarrett, and maybe Michael Henderson and the rest of Miles Davis’ crack funk-jazz band of this era, but they never got around to actually recording/playing before Hendrix died, at least that I’m aware of.
Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland1 remains one of my favorite albums, especially in the moody, jazzed up sections. However, Hendrix received so many accolades for being a bad-ass guitar wizard that I think he allowed himself to get lazy in subsequent years, playing down to (or occasionally up to) the level of his jam buddies. If Hendrix and Miles Davis had recorded an album, there would have been no way that Miles, as serious a musician as has ever been born in the States, would have accepted anything other than stellar work, and Hendrix would have obliged.
This music reveals a truly muscular Miles Davis at the top of his form as an improviser and as a bandleader with the most intense and nearly mystical sense of the right place-the right time-the right lineup. These shows, played in a club instead of a concert hall, provided a virtual laboratory for possibilities Davis was exploring. The money for the gig was nearly non-existent compared to what he was used to making playing halls, so he paid the band out of his own pocket.
..What happens as the band plays each night is that the sense of adventure grows, while the utter relaxation and confidence in each member is carried through to Davis who pushes the buttons and in strange, nearly wordless ways, communicates what he wants on-stage, and the other players give it to him. There are so few rough moments here where someone drops a line or doesn’t quite make it; when it does happen on that rare occasion, some other member picks it up and goes with it. And DeJohnette’s drumming, in his virtual mind-lock with Henderson, is some of the best playing of his career.
Hendrix would have fit right in. A real tragedy this collaboration never occurred.Footnotes:
- aka Electric Dylan Lad [↩]