994

Mitch Mitchell: In Memoriam

By

Sign in to view read count
When the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Are You Experienced? initially appeared, all of the attention was focused on the guitarist—understandable, as this was his group, and the guitar sounds were unique extensions of blues, rock and electronics (the latter particularly) that had never made their way to the general record buying audience (greater displays of virtuosity could be heard from Danny Kalb and Larry Coryell a little earlier, and Clapton, Blackmore and Townshend had experimented successfully with feedback—albeit tentatively—a little earlier); but Hendrix was the total package—singer, song writer, visionary, guitar wizard—and he would be heard. A key element to the explosiveness of the mix was John "Mitch" Mitchell, former child virtuoso, former Georgie Fame drummer, and winner of the coin toss in which Hendrix was deciding between him and Aynsley Dunbar. Dunbar had formerly played with Mayall and Jeff Beck, founder of the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, later of the Mothers of Invention, and finally, super group Journey. (Hendrix' manager, Chas Chandler, was hoping that Dunbar would win the coin toss, because Mitchell was much more temperamental).

Given the way the Experience turned out, Mitchell was the better choice. Dunbar was certainly technically capable of doing what Mitchell did, and may have taken Hendrix' music in a different direction, but Mitchell responded to everything that Hendrix through at him. He was a masterful drummer, using explosive fills (more controlled than Keith Moon, and also more studied, as Mitchell was grounded in jazz) and his drumming always fit Hendrix songs. On the first album alone, "Purple Haze," "Fire," and "Third Stone from the Sun" among others, would have sounded radically different with any other drummer. "Manic Depression" is a tour de force, easily ranking (and, in my opinion, outdistancing) virtually any song accompaniment of the '60's, with the possible exception of Keith Moon on "I Can See for Miles". Other examples from later albums would be "Up From the Skies," the perfect accents and fills on "Spanish Castle Magic" and even "You Got Me Floating". Mitchell had great ears, fast reflexes and always seemed to know what Hendrix was thinking, as can be heard on "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" (which really became free jazz drumming) and "All Along the Watchtower."


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read "Dwight Sills: Creating His Own Space" Profiles Dwight Sills: Creating His Own Space
by Liz Goodwin
Published: January 14, 2017
Read "Fahir Atakoglu: Istanbul Blues" Profiles Fahir Atakoglu: Istanbul Blues
by Duncan Heining
Published: May 3, 2016
Read "Claude Nobs: We All Came Out To Montreux..." Profiles Claude Nobs: We All Came Out To Montreux...
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 30, 2016
Read "The Giant Legacy of Rudy Van Gelder" Profiles The Giant Legacy of Rudy Van Gelder
by Greg Simmons
Published: October 5, 2016
Read "The Ganelin Trio: Creative Tensions" Profiles The Ganelin Trio: Creative Tensions
by Duncan Heining
Published: October 19, 2016
Read "Roland Kirk: Here Comes The Whistleman" Profiles Roland Kirk: Here Comes The Whistleman
by Duncan Heining
Published: October 19, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!