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“A Note on Jimi Hendrix and the Importance of Jamming and Improvisation”

I’ve been kinda laying low these past couple of days because of this whole Anthony Bourdain thing… I wasn’t too familiar with the guy but I believe in paying respects to fallen cultural catalysts with a little silence, which can sometimes amount to suffering, of our own.
It’s been a day of respite today in general for me, a rare Saturday off from work (I’m out with a pulled groin, which yes is close to my wee-wee thanks for remembering) and it’s been a great day of catching up on all the music out there. One thing I’ve learned is that WE ARE LIVING IN THE GOLDEN AGE OF MUsic, and to be specific, RECORDED music. It’s ironic, then, since it’s all FREE nowadays, and hence defying the microeconomic law of a price lowering correlating with a decrease in demand of a commodity… slowly but surely electro continues to navigate ahead and hordes of folk rockers are crawling out of the woodworks from Frisco, Texas and elsewhere, TRADITIONAL places, to remind us of the form of music we all know and love, while also enlivening and refreshing it, sort of like how you refresh a web page.
But here’s my point I’m getting to: I’ve found out about a bunch of new bands on social media that are awesome but social media, like I explain briefly in my post prior, is the MOUTH of the river and not the source. Artistic efficacy (and art is the only thing that will ever “turn out right”) is still about getting up there and getting your hands dirty and being AUTHENTIC. No hopeful pontificator on Facebook will ever be able to tell you how to become the next James Brown.
Just think of all the influences that go into every little thing. For every swatch of your little attempted, ambitious artistic “progress,” you’re missing out on a true honing of the great voices that have come before you. I was just taking in this St. Vincent BBC performance where she’s covering some Pantera song and the Tool’s “Forty Six & 2” (which she erroneously dubs “My Shadow”… by the way I like her title better)… but that’s a girl, Annie Clark, self-beholden to an autonomous moniker, St. Vincent, originally hailing from Oklahoma and I believe having had an upheaval-laden childhood which rendered her in Texas for a while, then driven (perhaps literally, definitely figuratively) to New York, to take in and let cloak her an African-American art, rock and roll, planted infrastructurally by Chuck Berry and sonically by Jimi Hendrix then retrieved by TOOL for “Forty Six & 2,” finally given fame and probably even a bolstered musical focus by a British TV channel, BBC. Here we can hopefully at least see how narcissism, even if it is more common and understandable in these days, is hardly very “artistic.” Art will always be a matter of borrowing and truly understanding and internalizing what’s come before.
One thing I’ve got to get better at is disagreeing with people civilly and rationally and I have to say I turn a bold faced 180 to Tony Glover’s albeit brilliant review of Electric Ladyland as he dismisses “Burning of the Midnight Lamp”… actually this exact song is just what got me on the last Hendrix kick I’m on now, which obviously is one of many… I was glad that “Killing Floor” Live at Winterland is still available via Spotify (the CD which I own is out of print… it’s there now under the “Winterland” box set)… well I ATTEMPTED to listen to Electric Ladyland without getting distracted by things like listening to the Bob Dylan version of “All along the Watchtower,” marveling at the stupidity-inducing organ prowess of Steve Winwood on this track (which is mentioned in the RS Ladyland review), and of course the sheer awfulness of Noel Redding’s song “Little Miss Strange” [1], but all in all I didn’t even get to “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” because I got inspired to write this post which is about improvisation.
Basically, by listening to this live track “Voodoo Chile,” you can literally hear how Hendrix devised the song “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” which would go on to foster part of Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix, during the extraordinary band interplay of “Voodoo Chile.” Like I mention earlier, Steve Winwood is a player on organ during this performance (it seems hard to trace the exact place or time, though obviously it shouldn’t be), Jack Cassady of Jefferson Airplane was on it playing bass, and something in there, whether it was one of these elements or something whimsical in the guitarist himself, caused him to actually impromptu pen the true chorus of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” which would last through the latter track on Electric Ladyland of the same name, as well as, like I said, the greatest hits collection. When the first chorus come around, Hendrix seems a little uncertain of how to construct it (let’s remember the song was unreleased at this point), and his whole utterance is just “And he said ‘Fly on’ / ’Cause I’m on voodoo chile”, the chorus then morphing by the 11-minute or so mark of this song to what it would eventually stand as, “I’m a voodoo child / Lord knows I’m a voodoo child”. The latter manifestation of this chorus I think, is preferable, if only for the former’s similarity to the whole “Fly on little wing” lyric which came on Axis: Bold as Love.
Anyway, Hendrix ended up going with the latter permutation, which stands as a pretty emphatic deciding vote, I’d say. I know when I’m up performing on acoustic guitar and vocals at an open mic, sometimes it helps me to just noodle and doodle around a little bit, playing little like faux-grunge (which is blues on an electric guitar) licks as a sort of immediate therapy, to get my head straight. It can help me square up with things like even how I WANT to sing the song I’m about to sing, which can be helpful certainly for performers who have to do a particular number tons of times, like on a whole tour, or just if you have the economic or spiritual impetus to do a live show and you don’t have enough new tunes done.
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[1] In light of this it becomes all the more believable that Hendrix would ditch his British bandmates after this project for the “band of gyspys” which would feature drummer Buddy Miles et. al.

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