Jimi Meets Miles

The ultimate musical collaboration that NEVER happened was Jimi Hendrix playing with Miles Davis.

Miles and Jimi were the 20th Century's #1 musicians in their fields; Rock and Jazz. They were also the two coolest Dudes on the planet! Both had a great line in patter and instantly recognisable voice. They dominated their respective art forms.

The two certainly met, became friends, jammed and talked about recording. Urban myth has is that there was a session organised but someone, possibly Miles' drummer Tony Williams, demanded $50,000 to play on the session at the last minute and that killed it stone dead.

I decided to make their collaboration happen forty years later in the virtual world, with recording technology that Miles and Jimi never had. It's amazing to think that my home recording studio is way beyond par with their analog tape machines of the 70's .

So, how did I think they would approach it? Jimi was a lovely man but, out of the two of them, Miles was the bandleader - so I assumed they would start with one of his tracks. I'm sure Miles could play on any of Jimi's material at the drop of a hat, his talent was timeless and limitless. He reinvented jazz every decade he was playing.

Miles' band leading strategy was to gather players around him who made him look good. He created the groove and let his guys run free. Mostly it worked but sometimes it didn't! Jack Johnson is the ultimate Miles groove, not so esoteric as Bitches Brew/Live Evil albums; Jimi would be right at home.

Tracks

#1 Right Off (from the album 'Jack Johnson')

Jack Johnson is also my all time favourite Miles album, albeit not one of his best known. It was the soundtrack to the movie about the legendary black boxer Jack Johnson. I think that Miles horn was at its best here. No Harmon mute - just raw Miles.

'Right Off' is a long track, eleven minutes, and Miles does not come in until the 2 minute 40 mark. But how he comes in is classic, on the least obvious place - the 7th sixteenth on the 85th bar. Then it's none stop Miles blowing his heart out and the guitar in conversation with it.

Jimi Hendrix was a jazz musician. That statement may surprise you if your idea of jazz is an acoustic classical jazz trio. To me jazz is anything that constantly avoids the obvious progression and goes someplace new. Jimi's improvisations certainly did that, flying off at tangents into some other (possibly drug fuelled) universe.

I am not so misguided as to say this is exactly how Jimi would have played it, this is merely one of many possible outcomes. People forget just how good Jimi was. He was a force of nature and a virtuoso player so I don't claim my efforts to be in his league. All I have going for me is 40 years more playing practice than Jimi had and a bit of authenticity because, if I had a buck for every time I played Purple Haze in my youth, I'd be rich!

I've avoided the straightforward solo because well, I wouldn't know where to start. You couldn't just play Red House over it - plus there weren't any sections on the original that would fit. Mile's horn was sacrosanct, I wouldn't dare mess with that so I opted for the general remit of the Psychedelic approach! Jimi could make his guitar 'talk' by using feedback and his whammy bar (tremolo arm) on his Fender Stratocaster. That's what I ended up doing, by accident really. I just got in the zone and feverishly hit 'record' - I laid it down in pretty much in one take.

I'm a big fan of John McLaughlin who played guitar on the original session. I do what he did, weave an improvised rhythm track alongside Mile's horn. Sometimes not even notes just sounds. I put a bit of Jimi's narration because that's something he often did.

I hope you like it and receive it in the respectful spirit to which it was intended. I know some jazz purists might look down their noses at the very idea. To them I would say - look, jazz needs to evolve, not be left to die. If you still don't like it then I offer you Mile's favourite phrase - SO WHAT!

#2 If 6 were 9

My first Jimi and Miles collaboration, Right Off, that I posted on Youtube is on 150,000+ views (as of July 2016) so I thought, a sequel, why not try a later era? Miles' band of the 80's was one of his peak eras, strongly influenced by the contributions of Marcus Miller on bass.

This is what it might have sounded like had Jimi survived to play with Miles Davis during Miles' Tutu/Amandla period (1986). For the first time Miles could embrace synthesizers, sequencing, and drum machines. No doubt Jimi would have too. Add to that a producer who could play bass every bit as well as he could produce, Marcus Miller, and you have a recipe for some awesome music.

On this track I play guitars and sequence Miles trumpet. I am ably assisted by the immensely talented Steve Shone on bass. Don't miss his bass solo at 3 minutes in, Marcus would be proud!

I approach it differently this time, as if it were produced by Marcus Miller.

Jimi would have no doubt embraced the funk era. His playing would have gotten more rhythmic. After all he did start off in R&B with the Isely Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown (who sacked him for being too showy). I think it's odds on that Jimi may well have have gone on to play with Earth Wind and Fire had he survived.

Every guitarist knows... Jimi invented all the great guitar licks back in the 60's. He would have probably invented the subsequently discovered guitar techniques of sweep picking and tapping had the 80's rock gods like Eddie Van Halen not gotten around to it! I started playing around the same time as Jimi and I assume Jimi would follow the road I did, getting cleaner and jazzier. There's plenty of anecdotal evidence to support that. I would draw a straight line from Jimi's death in 1970 through seventies commercial jazz/rock (Steely Dan), to 80's Stadium Rockers and beyond.

Who else in the jazz sphere would Jimi have played with? He would almost certainly have played with Herbie Hancock and likely my fave band never to have a guitarist, Weather Report. There's my next two projects!

Did you know... Miller recorded and produced the Tutu album as his own album - with no horns on it. Then Miles heard it the musical chemistry between the two great artistes exploded. Just imagine the genius of Miles to play on Marcus' album as though it was conceived for Miles. The universe had decided it was destiny. Miles influence was so thorough he turned it into a Miles Davis album. But then Miles was so great he could play on any style of music in any era and make it sound cool!

#3 Foxy Lady

WHAT IF... Jimi and Miles had played together on a high energy instrumental in the style of Foxy Lady? I play or sequence all instruments on my pastiche in the style of the classic track off Jimi's 1967 debut album Are You Experienced.

This is my respectful imagining of just one possible outcome. Miles and Jimi would have undoubtedly brought their energy to play off each other. As I create these Jimi and Miles Collab's I think I get closer to the spirit of what they would sound like together. I feel this one is the best yet at weaving the two together.

#4 Voodoo Child

What if... Miles and Jimi run the voodoo down on a groove similar to Jimi's classic Voodoo Child in the 1980's? Miles did a track called "Miles runs the Voodoo down" on Bitches Brew (1970). It was limited by recording keyboard technology. I conceive a groove that morphs into an authentic late 1970's Jazz/Rock/Funk/Fusion piece using technology Miles and Jimi never had!

I play or sequence all instruments except bass (where I am nobly assisted by Steve Shone). Steve's brief was to throw in some Marcus Miller and Jaco Pastorius in, which he did with his usual expertise.

#5 In A Silent Way

What if... Miles and Jimi collaborated on the classic Miles track "In a Silent Way"? Jimi could carry a tune, as proven by his rendition of "Star Spangled Banner". The melody to "In a Silent Way" is a lot tougher than that, mainly because it is really slow and stops/starts throughout. However, I have no doubt Jimi would excel on it. I speculate their version would not be a million miles away from this.

This track known as "In a Silent Way" was off the Miles Davis album of that name and is actually called "It's about Time". It was written by Joe Zawinul (later of Weather Report). I play or sequence all instruments on this pastiche in the style of In a Silent Way.

#6 Purple Hazed

If Jimi and Miles had done a track in the style of Purple Haze in the 80's, they would have embraced synthesisers and funk. By then Jimi would probably be bored playing that iconic guitar riff motif at every gig, so I let the synth voice do a riff like it.

People don't give Jimi credit for his fine rhythm guitar. It was a huge part of his 'game', in its own way as iconic as Nile Rodgers. I think Jimi would have played funk rhythm guitar on this, so I do! For the guitar solo at 1.50 I stick to the psychedelic vibe. Of course Jimi didn't have Stutter edit like I do but I'm sure he would have used it, he was always seeking out new sounds.

The original track first appeared on the 1967 Hendrix album Are You Experienced. This pastiche version may not be what you are expecting!

It starts off on keyboards. Jimi never had to be on every bar of every track. I think Herbie Hancock would have been there on Keys. The first guitar solo on Purple Haze is on a classical acoustic. Jimi would no doubt have worked in those slaps and snaps like I do. Miles (well virtual Horns sequenced by me) then takes a solo.

Back in the day Jimi played mostly pentatonic scales over blues/melodic minor scales. The chords I play are more jazzy. Miles could drop in and out of major/minor/diminished/chromatic scales in the blink of an eye so I'm always mindful of that when sequencing his parts. He worked on 10 other levels too dropping squeaks and squeals into his playing like the true master he was.

#7 Tutu

If only Jimi had played on the Miles Davis 1986 album Tutu along with Marcus Miller. How brilliant that would be!

Miles won a Grammy for his performance, Marcus Miller wrote and produced, it was as near perfect as an album can be. The only conceivable improvement would have been the addition of Jimi's energy! Ahhh. If only...

I play or sequence all instruments on this pastiche in the style of Tutu

#8 Hey Joe

The classic Jimi groove revisited with a Miles solo at the end. I play or sequence all instruments on this pastiche in the style of Hey Joe.

#9 Castle made of Sand

Had Jimi and Miles did a track in the style of Castles Made of Sand, one of Hendrix's most beautiful, they would have captured its wistful qualities for sure. The track relies on Jimi's own distinctive brand of rhythm guitar playing that was both lyrical and melodic. Miles' horn would certainly have complimented that.

I play or sequence all instruments on this pastiche in the style of Castles Made of Sand.

How to play Jimi's rhythm style Jimi's rhythm guitar relies on perfect fourths. Barre any two adjacent strings (except 3rd and 2nd) anywhere on the fretboard and you are playing a perfect fourth (5 semitones interval). To play them like Jimi you hold them open, embellishing with trills (hammer on, pull off) two semitones (frets) apart, usually on the lower of the two strings. I've sometimes heard this called scooping but that term is often confused with scooped mids, something entirely different. Whatever you call it, it's a technique going back to the early days of rock and roll, Chuck Berry always springs to mind as one exponent. Jimi covered his song Johnny B Goode of course.

To play Jimi's rhythm style you simply go up and down the pentatonic scales you are probably already familiar with (major or minor to suit the song key) in perfect 4ths.

As well as trills you can slide the barre over two frets leaving both strings ringing out. The trick is to alternate trills and slides. You need to learn the positions all over the fretboard, but if you already know Pentatonic scales you're already there! If you're in a major key use the major pentatonic scale.

Jimi had a sense of melody and harmony that set him aside, and still does, from 99% of other rock players. I speculate that he played rhythm like this not only because it sounded cool but also for a good practical reason; he played in three piece bands and this extra intricacy filled out the sound.

So What

What if Jimi Hendrix played a groove like So What? In the 80's it would be more modern, tighter, and with a synth bass line! It might even be smooth jazz. Why not? Some Little Wing style rhythm guitar would fit perfectly. I play or sequence all instruments on this pastiche in the style of So What

Little Wing

Suppose Miles Davis brought his distinctive muted trumpet to one of Jimi Hendrix's most lyrical tracks? I play or sequence all instruments on this pastiche in the style of Little Wing.

This original track is one of every guitar players' favourite Hendrix tracks. Little Wing is the classic example of Hendrix's rhythm guitar playing, a skill he was totally underrated for, but only because his lead guitar playing was so outstanding. Rhythm guitar playing by definition belongs to the backing section, Jimi understood that from his days backing the likes of Tina Turner, James Brown, and the Isley Bros. earlier in his career.

Jimi's Rhythm style relies on perfect fourths. Barre any two adjacent strings (except 3rd and 2nd) anywhere on the fretboard and you are playing a perfect fourth (5 semitones interval). To play them like Jimi you hold them, embellishing with trills (hammer on, pull off) two semitones (frets) apart, usually on the lower of the two strings. I've sometimes heard this called scooping but that term is often confused with scooped mids, something entirely different. Whatever you call it, it's a technique going back to the early days of rock and roll, Chuck Berry always springs to mind as one exponent. Jimi covered his song Johnny B Goode of course.

To play Jimi's rhythm style you simply go up and down the pentatonic scales you are probably already familiar with (major or minor to suit the song key) in perfect 4ths.

As well as trills you can slide the barre over two frets leaving both strings ringing out. The trick is to alternate trills and slides. You need to learn the positions all over the fretboard, but if you already know Pentatonic scales you're already there!

Jimi had a sense of melody and harmony that set him aside, and still does, from 99% of other rock players. I speculate that he played rhythm like this not only because it sounded cool but also for a good practical reason; he played in three piece bands and this extra intricacy filled out the sound.

Fire

What if Jimi and Miles Davis played with Fire? Sparks would fly! I play or sequence all instruments on this pastiche in the style of Fire.

Fire was one of Hendrix's most popular songs, he frequently played it in concert. It was written by Jimi Hendrix and first recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in early 1967.

Big Time

What if Jimi and Miles Davis had collaborated in the 80's? It would sound modern for sure. Marcus Miller would be producer and playing bass.

I play or sequence all instruments on this pastiche in the style of Big Time.

The actual Miles classic track 'Big Time' is on the 1989 Amandla album. My Big Time groove has some orchestral hits like on another Marcus/Miles track Tutu (the title track of Miles' Tutu album).

Luis Reina assisted on bass

Third Stoned From The Sun

What if Jimi and Miles had collaborated in the 80's in the style of Jimi's "3rd Stone from the Sun" track? Marcus Miller would be the producer and playing double bass (he did a version on his Jaco album).

I play or sequence all instruments on this pastiche in the style of 3rd Stone.

Thanks for listening!

Benny Sutton

PS. I've also done other Miles tracks including In A Silent Way, Tutu, and So What. They are all honest stabs at paying homage to the top musician of the 20th Century.