If Six Was Nine

La Musica di Jimi Hendrix per Jazz Ensemble

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Let's face it, there are more than a few problems for an all-Italian ensemble trying to interpret the music of Jimi Hendrix with a female vocalist, two reeds, two brasses, and a rhythm section. Language is only one of them -- the heavily accented lines here illustrate that perfectly. But also the tunes themselves -- which are so difficult for American ensembles (remember Gil Evans' all-Hendrix disc?) -- would seem to present melodic as well as harmonic difficulties for a European ensemble. And despite the well-intentioned apologia (yes, in the same manner he blathers about Dutch jazz) in the liner notes by jazz critic Kevin Whitehead, these are all over the place. For one, Hendrix was never a formalist, and yet these charts are written so stiffly and methodically that they never really approach the essence of the music itself, let alone the man who played it. Another is language. Why this group insisted on a vocalist in the first place is a mystery, and one who obviously has trouble with the English language is another. Too many liberties -- and stilted ones at that -- are taken with material as profound as "Castles Made of Sand," "Driftin'," "Angel," and "Little Wing" (couldn't they have chosen other, less obvious tracks than these latter two?), so that what does come through is substandard, muddy, and elegiac. There isn't any revelatory sense that Hendrix' harmonic sensibility to his color palette was any richer than he revealed himself, and therefore jazz interpretations of his work -- not only by Europeans but by well-intentioned American jazzers who would like to pluck Hendrix from the rock and pop genres he clearly belongs in and helped to define -- suffer from a lack of passion, nuance, and recklessness, the hallmarks of the man's approach. Sorry, this disc lacks so much in the way of soul, method, execution, and, well, taste that its players will remain unnamed to protect them.

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