Experiencing Jimi Hendrix: Closing In On the Records Released in Jimi's Lifetime

     One day while on the phone with Mike Molenda (editor of Guitar Player), I was acting very “jaded” and complaining that I don’t buy guitar magazines anymore, no matter what “famous guitarist” is on the cover – EXCEPT for Jimi Hendrix. This was something I never realized until I had said it – and it was true. After more than 3 decades of playing guitar live and in the studio (in the styles of rock and jazz), much of the stylistic “lore” of the guitar can be seen in the rear-view mirror. It’s still WONDERFUL and my favorite instrument, but everything is essentially “explainable”.

     Except for Jimi Hendrix.

     Sure, there have been phases where I try to “backpocket” his work as basically high-octane blues played through the state-of-the-art signal processors of his day – but eventually I have to realize that in Jimi’s case, it’s more than just dots and stems and tabs and pedals and amplification. Jimi never invented any new scales or composed a new “harmony standard” (for example, 12-bar blues, “rhythm changes”, “Giant Steps changes”, etc.). He never really explored avant-garde musical concepts like metric modulation or polytonality. Nonetheless, in a mere 4 years, he essentially changed the face of rock guitar (and arguably popular music in general).

     The avant-garde classical composer Karlheinz Stockhausen once said that when you dissect a butterfly, you end up killing it (or something to that effect). The purpose of this project is not to demystify the unexplainable power of Jimi’s music. However, by writing about each album (in chronologically-released order) in musical terms, I’ll be trying to adjust the listening lens to focus in on the hidden charms of Jimi’s many recorded releases.

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