After issuing two faked Hendrix albums in the seventies, Alan Douglas put together this very interesting album. There is no after-the-event overdubbing here, but as unofficial releases (and the recent official “Hear My Music” on Dagger) have revealed, the jams from which these tracks were assembled, were heavily edited. That is not necessarily a bad thing.
For years Miles Davis, for example, had left hours of jams in the hands of his producer Ted Macero, who edited everything down to make some of the musicians classic albums. Here, Alan Douglas adopted the same technique (although, unlike Miles, Jimi was not around to approve it) to create an exciting glimpse of Jimi working out at the Record Plant in New York, in early to mid 1969.
Douglas wisely edited out some passages (where Jimi perhaps toyed with a riff repeatedly, searching for ideas) to create something more uniform. All tracks are instrumental (apart from a brief vocal on the title track) and some tracks lean towards a “jazz” feel, which had always been part of Jimi’s music anyway (“Up From The Skies”, Rainy Day”, “Tax Free”) and these jam sessions are seen to be a pointer as to where Jimi’s music might have been heading for in the future.
Jimi was interested in elements of jazz improvisation but felt inhibited by the intense academic approach of many top musicians in the field. Jimi played on his instincts and couldn’t read sheet music ! At one point he met Miles Davis and they planned to work together, but once money was discussed, negociations unfortunately fell apart. Also, just before he died, Jimi was lined up to record with the saxophonist Roland Kirk (they had jammed together) and arranger Gil Evans (famous for his work with Miles Davis). Evans in fact later put out a big band tribute to Jimi in the seventies, which is worth a listen.
Alan Douglas had planned to include a jam with jazz guitarist John McLaughlin here, but the latter blocked its release (he had played only on an acoustic guitar unfortunately fitted up with a faulty pick-up) so the tapes remained on the shelf. In 1970, Douglas had produced a McLaughlin album (“Devotion”) which featured Buddy Miles and keyboard player Larry Young, who plays with Jimi here on “Young/Hendrix”.
The opening track is a jam on a riff that would become “Message To Love” later in the year. On the fabulous “Easy Blues”, Jimi’s friend Larry Lee plays second guitar (he was of course part of Jimi’s “Woodstock” band). “Jimi/Jimmy Jam” has Jim McCarty (of Buddy Miles Express and later Cactus) on second guitar and perhaps Roland Robinson (who was Eddie Flyod’s bassist I think) or Dave Holland.
The superb “Drone Blues” features passages that Jimi had previously used in “Drivin’ South” and would later work into “Midnight Lightning”. Interesting to note that Billy Cox plays bass throughout here (except on track two) and this happened while The Experience were still together. The first track, from May 1969, even features Buddy Miles on drums, “A Band Of Gypsys” therefore, and months before the band was to officially exist.
The rest of the tracks feature Mitch Mitchell and Rocky Issacs (“Drone Blues”).
Seems fitting today, on the 69th anniversary of the birth of Jimi Hendrix, to feature music from the master. Hendrix is a really important artist for me. His guitar playing is almost universally recognized as the best the planet has known, but Jimi for me was so much more than simply a guitarist. Jimi was an artist who broke down barriers and explored sound far beyond what many of his contemporaries were interested in achieving.
I fell into Hendrix’s music at a young age, “borrowing” some of his cassettes from my brother. Hendrix’s music, along with a handful of others, helped me define my own identity and helped me to push for something more than just what was expected me in this society as a young black man.
I originally heard “Jimi/Jimmy Jam” from this album on WREK’s Stonehenge back when I was in high school. I’d always loved just the sound of Hendrix’s guitar and appreciated the limited amount of instrumentals that had come my way up til then. Nine To The Universe is one of the posthumous releases that have proved controversial because of the heavy-handed techinques of producer Alan Douglas.
Unlike Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning, both of which featured a lot of overdubs from musicians that Hendrix never even played with, Nine To Universe features just the original players, with minimal interference from Douglas. Aside from an unnamed tambourine player that he added, this music features the musicians that were in the studio with Jimi when these loose jams were originally performed.
In recent years some of the full takes of these tracks (Young/Hendrix, Jimi/Jimmy Jam & Drone Blues) have been featured on a couple of Hendrix family releases. Having heard them, I actually think this LP is one of the rare instances where Douglas’ production is actually pretty good. Instead of 20 – 25+ jams, we have tracks that are more or less cut in half, but that sound like complete songs and are much more focused.
It gives us a glimpse into Hendrix’s free-wheeling jam sessions (though, almost unbelievably, there is likely STILL more unreleased music, including performances with guitarist John McLaughlin), music that was only made for the musicians benefit, never to be released on record.
That loose nature is one of the things that makes “Nine To The Universe” such an amazing track, with a riff that will later on become “Earth Blues,” the song breaks down part of the way through into a nice Buddy Miles drum solo with Jimi in the background yelling out things like “Lord Have Mercy” and closing up with what sounds like completely improvised lyrics that might have later served as inspiration for “Message to Love” or “Power of Soul”.
“Drone Blues” is one of the fastest & funkiest things Jimi ever laid down and the track that led me to this LP, “Jimi/Jimmy Jam,” with the severely under-rated Jim McCarty (of the equally under-rated Cactus, along with Mitch Ryder & his Detroit Wheels and Buddy Miles’ Express) is just plain epic.
Also intriguing are the liner notes that mention the directions Jimi wanted to take his music, influenced by Miles Davis and my personal hero Rahsaan Roland Kirk. My mind can’t fully comprehend exactly how amazing those collaborations would have sounded. Part of me hopes, against all reason, that somewhere there is some lost jam session between Jimi & Rahsaan.
They would have made beautiful music together, but thankfully they left us with many beautiful bright moments to marvel at years and years after their days on this earth were done. For that I am sincerely thankful…
The album that demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt why Jimi Hendrix still reigns supreme as the God of Guitar. Jimi takes no vocals on any of the six tracks, preferring instead to let his guitar cry and sing. This is a brilliant example of Jimi’s fluid improvisational genius.
His playing is ratcheted up another notch in the fertile jam-session setting of these astounding recordings, which showcase his creative energy and virtuosity. We are able to hear Hendrix thinking aloud, and he consistently astounds the listener with the force of his ideas.
He pairs up on one track with legendary jazz organist Larry Young (who played with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew), creating a jazz-rock masterpiece that outshines in intensity anything recorded by latter day guitar heroes. The electrifying interplay that he and Young achieve leaves one wondering what kind of music Jimi could have made with Miles Davis, had he not died just one week before they were scheduled to record together in a London studio.
This session hints strongly at one of the many possible directions Jimi’s music was headed prior to his tragic death in September 1970. This long out-of-print masterpiece deserves to be immediately re-released. Write to your local congressman.
•Jimi Hendrix – Guitar
•Jim McCartey – Guitar
•Larry Lee – Guitar
•Larry Young – Organ
•Billy Cox – Bass
•Dave Holland – Bass
•Buddy Miles – Drums
•Mitch Mitchell – Drums
•Juma Edwards – Percussion
1.Nine to the Universe (8:46)
2.Jimi/Jimmy Jam (7:58)
3.Young/Hendrix Jam (10:22)
4.Easy Blues (4:17)
5.Drone Blues (6:16)