Reed Robins speaks...
Allow me to introduce myself: I'm Reed Robins, and I've just done an album
called "SONGS OF JIMI HENDRIX for solo jazz piano" (on CD and Cassette).
The idea for the album started 3 years ago when the idea popped into my
head that "Up from the Skies" would be a great candidate for a jazz piano
arrangement. The idea quickly grew to become a collection of 20 songs.
I always though of Jimi as *the* premiere guitarist. As a matter of fact,
the seed for me to become a musician was first planted on August 21st, 1968,
when I heard Jimi Hendrix play at the Virginia Beach Dome in Virginia
(thanks, Colin Reed for your research about the show). I had already been
playing guitar for about 3 years, but that show altered my aspirations for
life. At age 11, that was *it* - I wanted to be a guitarist, through and
During that whole period, playing guitar in various bands in my hometown,
in public, I never touched any of the material that's now on this album, or
any other Jimi Hendrix song! I felt unable to shoulder the responsibility of
that music. After all, in Jimi's hands the guitar was more like a sonic
In college, I studied music composition and classical piano. I went
on to study jazz piano, after moving to New York City, with a very
experienced teacher, Mike Longo. He was quite a taskmaster, and he took me
through many disciplines, and helped me learn them on a level I had not
experienced before. We worked on jazz for three years, and the "African
drumming technique". One day he turned to me, and told me, out of the
"That's great, but you play the piano wrong"... That day, we started with what
turned out to be years of technical exercises, scales and advanced classical
Meanwhile, the jazz classics that we worked on together were great, but I never
had the feeling of a strong connection to those tunes. And I knew that a
"connection" was the ingredient that I was missing...
Together we worked on an arrangement of the composition "Angel". My
teacher and I discussed the roots of the music. We discussed Jimi's
ingenious use of a gospel influence in the harmony. We discussed Jimi's
use of harmonic substitution, and analyzed the cadence formulas he was
drawing from. I was coached to play the tune in many tempos, and different
textures on the piano. We also made arrangements for various instruments.
In short, we went back to the composition itself, actually bypassing Jimi's
arrangement of it.
An amazing thing is that the tune sounded beautiful every way we approached
it. Each interpretation conveyed the emotion of the song in its own new way.
I became inspired by Jimi Hendrix, the composer. To me, it's like
archeology. It helps me understand more of the magic of Jimi Hendrix. His
magic exists as much in his ideas as it does in his fingers...
This brings me up to 3 years ago, when I started work on this collection.
At that time, I didn't know what the internet was, much less have email --
and I sure didn't know there was a hey-joe mailing list! During this time,
I arranged and recorded this album, and on the strength of the result, started
a record company called Changing Tones Records, to market it, along with other
projects. We have also created a web site. Once again, Jimi has brought me
musical satisfaction, and has provided a link between my very first
inspiration, and my most recent gig.
If you want to get a taste of the music, check out the sound clips, at:
While I was working on my tribute album, I didn't want to hear anyone's version of Jimi 's work except Jimi. As a matter of fact, when I first started working on this, Stone Free wasn't even out. Now that there are several new tributes out on the market I've been listening to a few of them recently.
Also I should mention I'm a super fan of the kind of guitar playing Jimi pioneered, and I spent my whole adolescence trying to get Jimi's licks. I LOVE IT!! That having been said, I can honestly say that what I miss most on these tributes is not Jimi's guitar. I actually enjoy hearing other guitar and/or musical approaches to these great songs (OK, with a couple of exceptions...). I think it helps me learn the music. I also like the fact that the songs of Jimi Hendrix are becoming standards in their own right.
What I miss in these versions is that voice!
Honestly, it dawned on me I've heard few vocal approaches that truly intrigue me, either note for note covers or altogether different interpretations. I didn't even realize this until I was listening to another Hendrix cover (I had *no* idea how many Hendrix covers there were until people started sending them to me!). In the outro part Jimi's voice (sampled, of course) comes up. It's a total breath of fresh air to hear *him* speaking. There's music even in the speech pattern. I also love the way he fills his guitar solo parts with spoken comments (i.e. - end of "Spanish Castle Magic"), and the way he sings with indeterminate pitch ("You tell me it's alright...You just want me to" from the 1st verse of "Crosstown Traffic") The way he bends down at the end of a note...all great stuff, IMHO. As this was occurring to me, I was actually thinking: "I'm glad my project is instrumental!".
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