Karl J. Geisler...
Posted on hey-joe, volume 19980407
Date: Mon, 6 Apr 1998 02:17:31 EDT
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Musicians build on the Hendrix legacy
On the eve of Eric Clapton's two-night stand at the United Center, while
thoughts are turning to his importance as a guitarist and blues advocate, the
ghost of Jimi Hendrix continues to assert that legend's even more considerable
influence as a guitarist, composer and rock-transcending visionary.
If you've been following the bouncing ball of Hendrix tribute albums and
one-shot cover versions of his songs ( including unexpected gems like Emmylou
Harris' techno-fied rendering of " May This Be Love" on the Daniel Lanois-
produced "Wrecking Ball"), you're aware of Hendrix's impact on multiple
Keeping that ball in the air are recently released albums by avant-
guitarist and singer James "Blood" Ulmer, blues-rocker Chris Whitley and
Triad, an unusual piano trio including jazz notable Geri Allen. As different
as these artists are, stylisticlly, and as independent of spirit, they all
draw from Hendrix in taking a personal approach to the blues and exploring
possibilities in sound.
There is no more potent guitarist alive than Ulmer, who builds his volcanic
attack out of bluesy slabs and shards of sound, funk beats and "harmalodic"
free jazz learned from his onetime boss Ornette Coleman. At best, his music is
overpowering in its physicality and overwhelming in its spirittuality.
On "Reunion"( Knitting Factory ), Ulmer reconvenes the trio responsible for
his1983 masterpiece, "Odyssey", including violinist Charles Burnham and
drummer Warren Benbow. The new disc by the Odyssey band, as it is dubbed, is
less stormy and surprising than the original-and less monumental-but it still
strikes a charismatic balance between corrosive power and magnetic grooves.
Texture - minded players are rarely as in-your-face as Ulmer, whose
melodies are brusque and fractured where Hendrix's were lanquid and sweeping.
Ulmer also thrives on primal, hard - bitten sound, while Hendrix achieved
scorching effects through distortion and feedback. But they are bonded by
sheer electric-ness of their guitars and the need to push it to the limit.
A denser, more convulsive sampling of Ulmer's free-fusion style can be
found on "Cross Fire" (DIW Jap Import), the latest outing by his Music
Revelation Ensemble. With guest saxist Pharoah Sanders and John Zorn wailing
on several tunes each (joining the bass-drum team of Calvin Jones and Cornell
Rochester), the music at its best suggests a missing link between Hendrix and
As legendary as Hendrix was for his voltage, his genius transcended
electricity. That lesson has not been lost on Whitley, who, having channeled
the plugged-in Jimi in a trio of blistering bravado (and commercial
negligibility, resulted in his getting dumped by Columbia), strips down to a
solo acoustic setting on "Dirt Floor" (Messenger)
"Many guitar players fall prey to redundancy because it's not an instument
where one has to breath physically, but the music calls for a sense of breath,
" e-mailed Berlin-based guitarist, Black Rock Coalition veteran and leading
Hendrixian Jean-Paul Bourelly, sharing an excerpt from a forth-coming posting
on his web site. "Hendrix had this quality naturally".
So does Whitley, who in accompanying himself on resophonic guitar and banjo
maintains a front-porch ease and intimacy even in tapping the deepest despair.
Produced by Craig Street, best known for his work with Cassandra Wilson and
k.d. lang, the small-label "Dirt Floor" is only 9 songs and 27 minutes long,
but it embodies worlds of feeling and experience.
Ultimately, Whitley's passport to Hendrixville is a shared affinity for the
Delta blues of Robert Johnson. Kissing the earth as well as the sky, aspiring
to heaven as he dallies with hell, he makes music of dangerous beauty. Having
made too many compromises, he exults in "returning to the wild where I'm
from". On "Dirt Floor " he welcomes himself home.
Geri Allen joins forces with the Bros Mark and Scott Batson to interpret
classic and obscure Hendrix tunes on " Three Pianos for Jimi" (Douglas Music).
The album and trio are byproducts of a 1988 concert at New York's Town Hall
organized by Street that featured cutting-edge artists performing Hendrix
songs. The cd, produced by Street, was recently issued by veteran producer
Alan Douglas, CONTROVERSIAL (capitols added by me ) one -time curator for the
The idea of claiming for the keyboard some of the most chrerished pieces in
the rock guitar literature is daring in and of itself. But "Three Pianos"
doesn't stop there. Performing in various combinations, the pianists push
their own sonic envelope via massed voicings ( the pianos feed back on each
other ), ethereal effects ( a slide from a lap steel guitar is used on the
piano strings ) and striking contrasts between loud and soft.
The playing is equally daring from a stylistic perspective. Barrelhouse
Blues and gospel runs are darkened by atonal effects. An extended, suitelike
rendition of "Cherokee Mist", takes on a haunting orchestral quality in moving
through moods, colors and tonalities.
Does this have anything to do with Jimi Hendrix ? For the literal-minded,
maybe not, But in serving his humanizing melodies and questing spirit, "Three
Pianos" is very much on the same page. In the end Hendrix is served by the
albums air of mystery as well. Through his most tumultous sound experiments
and tenderest ballads, he continues inspiring investigations into his darkest-