Musings of Jimi Hendrix collaborating with Miles Davis have stoked rumors for nearly half a century, but the consummation of these two giants of American sound collage never came to fruition. The guitarist left us in 1970, and either their teaming up never happened, or it wasn’t documented (let us keep hoping, heads).
Late-era Hendrix was rife with studio jamming and sonic exploration, led by Jimi’s singular embracement of the unknown, simultaneously straddling the lines of experimentation and to-the-point rock/soul. Hendrix’s final studio works—some recorded at his own Electric Ladyland Studios in Greenwich Village—paired him with jazz musicians way outside his usual orbit. Sessions with Larry Young, a highly modern organist on the outer reaches of the post-bop genre, and with Dave Holland, Miles Davis’ young-gun London bassist (who features heavily on Davis’ ambient-jazz opus In A Silent Way), appear in various forms and varietals as compilations, reissues, and the like, but never all in one place: Hear My Music (Dagger, 2004); West Coast Seattle Boy (2010); and People, Hell, and Ages (Sony, 2013) were all released posthumously and make for a bumpy glance into this period of exploration for Hendrix. The most comprehensive—which met some blowback from the Henrix estate—is the compilation Nine To The Universe (Reprise, 1980). A longer, unauthorized album exists with slightly longer jams and additional takes, titled Message From Nine To The Universe, but there’s more out there, allegedly.
The full, unedited, “Nine To The Universe” is available on YouTube. The extra 10 minutes offer some of the guitarist’s most unadulterated, bluesadelic soul and stretching improvisations, with bent-nail guitar rips and wah-wah wails from here to the cosmos. This full take finds Hendrix summoning forces of unnatural transcendence that nearly explode out of the speaker. Buddy Miles’ tribal boogaloo drumming is a highlight, and takes over several times throughout the track amidst Jimi’s pleading “lord have mercy” and postmodern vocal ad libbing with infamous Hendrix groupie Devon Wilson: “I am what I am / thank god / I am what I am / that’s alright.” | t csatari