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Jimi Hendrix/Band of Gypsys: Hendrix Live at the Fillmore East

C. Michael Bailey By

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If A Equals B and B Equals C... No, the music of Jimi Hendrix can not be strictly called jazz. Since the guitarist's death in 1970, many music pundits have opined that had Hendrix lived he would have ventured into the realm of fusion. Rhetorically, how far from fusion could he have been at the end of his life when compared to the electric guitar fireworks on Bitches Brew ? Like jazz, Hendrix's music was blues based and highly improvisatory. It is with this support that I justify reviewing Hendrix Live at the Fillmore East in this jazz publication. Jazz is a melting pot with all Music at the fringes.

With the byline for Down Beat magazine being "Jazz, Blues, and Beyond", if we cannot consider Jimi Hendrix's music "Jazz, Blues, and Beyond", I will eat my crushed pork-pie hat and rename my cat “Jaco”.

Pivotal Music/Pivotal Time. Band of Gypsys was the last recording to be released beneath the approval of Hendrix before his death. What a cool LP cover that was. A grainy Hendrix in a circle spotlight, head slightly, almost reverently bowed, as if he was aware of the history of the occasion. The original LP (and CD re-release) presented six songs gleaned from two shows at New York City's Fillmore East Auditorium: the first on the evening of December 31, 1969 and the second on the morning of January 1, 1970. The songs were previously unreleased by Hendrix and provided a very clear and significant change in direction for the guitarist.

Also noteworthy was the venue. During its zenith, New York's Fillmore East auditorium was the Village Vanguard of Rock music. Then manager Bill Graham hosted every major musical act from the Grateful Dead to Pete Seeger. Also like the Vanguard, many notable live recordings were made there, perhaps the most famous being The Allman Brothers Band Live at the Fillmore East. The re-release of this particular recording preceded this Hendrix re-release in assembling in one place a good part of the music played at these respective concerts that had previously been unreleased or available only on separate recordings.

The music on Hendrix Live at the Fillmore East was performed on the symbolic fulcrum of social and cultural change that had been taking place from the mid-'60s and mid-'70s. Prophetic and metaphorical, Hendrix's music was changing also. With the Band of Gypsys, Hendrix shed his Caucasian Anglo band mates (Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell) in favor of the funky and intense Buddy Miles and Billy Cox. Together, they defined the meaning of “Power Trio”. His music moved in a decidedly funky direction while still retaining it allegiance to the blues (check out this electric "Hear My Train A Comin'"). The performance centerpiece, "Machine Gun" is presented here twice, the performance for each of the two shows. The song still oozes pure genius almost 30 years later. "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" is played a bit fast for my taste, but dovetails perfectly into "We Gotta Live Together".

Gratitude. It is simple a gift that the compact disc was invented. The availability of previously unissued or hard to find Hendrix makes this set worth having alone. Add to that it is from the Band of Gypsys show and that makes it essential.

Track Listing:

Disc 1Stone Free; Power of Soul; Hear My Train A Comin', Izabella, Machine Gun, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), We Gotta Live Together.Disc 2Auld Lang Syne, Who Knows, Changes, Machine Gun, Stepping Stone, Stop, Earth Blues, Burning Desire, Wild Thing.

Personnel: Jimi Hendrix: Electric Guitar; Billy Cox: Bass; Buddy Miles: Drums

Title: Hendrix Live at the Fillmore East | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Universal Music Group

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