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Jimi Hendrix is widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. At the height of his career in the late 1960s, he produced hits like “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” and “Voodoo Child.” But Jimi Hendrix was not just a virtuoso on the electric guitar; he was also a brilliant songwriter and an innovative studio artist.

Miles Davis, on the other hand, stood as a jazz legend known for his constant evolution. By the late ’60s, he was on the brink of releasing “Bitches Brew,” an album set to pioneer the fusion of jazz and rock. This work marked a significant departure from his previous albums and pushed the boundaries of jazz.

The Complex Relationship Between Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis

 

Beyond their musical genius, the personal dynamics between Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis added another layer of intrigue to the possibility of their collaboration. There was undeniable mutual respect; Davis, a seasoned musician, admired Jimi Hendrix’s groundbreaking guitar techniques and the fresh energy he brought to the music scene. On the other hand, Hendrix held Davis in high esteem, recognizing him as a jazz maestro who had continually reinvented his sound over the decades.

However, their relationship wasn’t without its tensions. One particularly telling episode occurred when Betty Davis organized a party in honor of Jimi Hendrix. Miles chose to conspicuously absent himself from the event, preferring to spend his time in the recording studio. This deliberate avoidance highlighted the underlying friction between the two artists, partly due to their shared connection with Betty.

Jimi Hendrix, despite his towering reputation in rock circles, was somewhat intimidated by Davis. This intimidation was not solely based on musical reverence but also stemmed from Davis’s occasionally hostile demeanor. Part of this hostility is believed to have been influenced by Betty Davis, Miles’ former wife. Betty, known for her vivacious personality and later her own musical career, had a brief relationship with Hendrix. This connection, combined with her strong influence on both musicians’ styles, added a layer of personal complexity to the Hendrix-Davis equation.

The Idea for the Potential Collaboration

 

Miles Davis, always on the lookout for fresh and innovative sounds, was reportedly intrigued by Hendrix’s unique approach to the guitar. Meanwhile, Jimi Hendrix, having expressed a keen interest in jazz and constantly pushing his musical boundaries, was likely drawn to Miles mastery and the allure of a new musical frontier.

The potential collaboration between Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis didn’t just emerge out of thin air; it was the product of whispers and discussions among musicians and those in the music industry. As the idea gained traction, a group of influential musicians began to “conspire” to bring this union to life. Notable figures like Larry Coryell, Buddy Miles, John McLaughlin, Tony Williams, Dave Holland, Stevie Winwood, Jack DeJohnette, Mitch Mitchell, Jack Bruce, and Larry Young all played a part in fueling the fire of this prospective alliance.

Despite these musicians being interconnected in some way, whether on the album “In a Silent Way” by Miles Davis or in the parallel project to Band of Gypsys where Mitch Mitchell played with Jack Bruce and Coryell, the truth is that Miles and Hendrix had not yet played together.

Producer Alan Douglas Enter the Scene

 

Enter producer Alan Douglas, who had been in talks with the virtuoso arranger Gil Evans, the genius behind some of Miles Davis’ best works. The main topic of these conversations was the potential collaboration of Hendrix and Miles, flanked by Tony Williams and the Evans orchestra. With this idea firmly on the table, Hendrix, Douglas, and Evans began to streamline the project. The work was scheduled to commence at the end of 1970. Hendrix was set to be the sole composer, utilizing Evans’ orchestra and arrangements. Regrettably, Jimi Hendrix died just a week before the first rehearsals were to begin.

“I want a big band… I don’t mean three harps and fourteen violins. I mean a big band full of competent musicians that I can conduct and write for. I think I’m a better guitarist than I was. I’ve learned a lot. But I have a lot more to learn about music because there’s a lot in this head of mine that I’ve got to get out. With the bigger band, I don’t want to be playing as much guitar. I want other musicians to play my stuff. I want to be a good writer. Jimi

Gil Evans’ Tribute to Jimi Hendrix

 

In 1974, the renowned jazz composer, conductor, and pianist Gil Evans presented a unique tribute to the rock legend Hendrix with the album “The Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix.” This collection showcases Hendrix’s compositions reimagined and arranged by Evans and his orchestra members, marrying the rock intensity of Hendrix with the intricate jazz articulations of Evans.

The album was an ensemble effort, featuring the talents of prominent musicians like David Sanborn, Howard Johnson, Billy Harper, and John Abercrombie. Such a stellar lineup added further depth and richness to Hendrix’s compositions.

Track Listing:

  1. “Angel” – 4:09 (arr. by Tom Malone)
  2. “Crosstown Traffic / Little Miss Lover” – 6:32 (arr. by Tom Malone)
  3. “Castles Made of Sand / Foxey Lady” – 11:26 (arr. by Gil Evans/Warren Smith)
  4. “Up from the Skies” [Take 1 – Original Master] – 9:16 (arr. by Gil Evans)
  5. “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” – 7:32 (arr. by David Horowitz)
  6. “Voodoo Child” – 5:02 (arr. by Howard Johnson)
  7. “Gypsy Eyes” – 3:40 (arr. by Trevor Koehler)
  8. “Little Wing” – 5:33 Bonus track on CD reissue (arr. by Gil Evans)
  9. “Up from the Skies” [Take 2 – Alternate Take] – 9:53 (arr. by Gil Evans) Bonus track on CD reissue

The album received acclaim from critics and listeners alike. Scott Yanow of Allmusic gave the album 4½ stars, highlighting “Evans’ arrangements uplift many of Hendrix’s more blues-oriented compositions and create a memorable set that is rock-oriented but retains the improvisation and personality of jazz.

See below Gil Evans playing Jimi Hendrix – Live in Warsaw 1976:

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