Reed Robins Liner Notes...
I think Jimi Hendrix is the ultimate icon of pop music. In his day, he was most famous for redefining the sound of the electric guitar. At the time, most people first exposed to his music developed their impressions (good or bad) from the sound of that axe. That's because the sound itself was so new. He was the first guitarist to really exploit the electronic distortion caused by overdriving the electronics of a guitar amp to get a legato (sustained) tone from the instrument using what was essentially nothing more than a technical flaw in the design and building of amplifiers--the fact that one cannot turn their volume controls up too high without causing distortion of the signal passing through them.

In essence, this is how Jimi Hendrix discovered the guitar sound that has shaped the music industry for the past twenty years.

His sound was so awesome that it gave him ranges of expression as a performer that no one else of his day even came close to. I couldn't hear him without experiencing a personal catharsis. The musical approach was apocalyptic. To the unappreciative it must have seemed downright scary, but to fans like me it was pure passion - a tone capable not only of singing but also screaming or crying as well. Some referred to it as "noise". (Of course, given that distortion is technically noise by definition, their semantics weren't altogether incorrect.)

As a matter of fact, one thing Hendrix was actually doing (wittingly or not) was challenging the notion that noise has no place in musical expression. He didn't do it first, though - In my later years I've begun to appreciate the music of other composers who made that step first. If you listen to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring or Varese's Ionization, you can hear how noise has been used effectively in the realm of "serious" composition.

What Hendrix did was bring the musical gesture of noise to the masses. Listening to Jimi's sonic landscape is to listen to the sounds of the twentieth century. His melodic motives are filled with these references. His tone, as well as his incredibly creative use of the guitar's "whammy bar" were the catalysts for this new vocabulary of sound. A particular favorite of mine, for example, is his melodic use of the sound of the Doppler effect in improvised solos. (such as the moment when a passing train blows the horn and you hear its pitch go down suddenly--one of those aural sensations made possible to humans only by 20th century technology.) To this day, He remains the most creative guitarist/recordist I've ever heard in this respect.

As a twelve year old guitarist trying to imitate Jimi's moves, that sound was the most elusive element--absolute magic. These days we have lots of new pedals, tuners, and digital signal processors, yet we're still just imitating Hendrix' sound. A sound which he delivered with a minimal pedal setup and an amp "turned up to 11".

Therefore, it's only natural that we've let that aspect of his creativity overshadow other aspects of his art. I have also been guilty of that. Actually the idea for this CD started with covering a single song and blossomed out to be an entire collection based on the merits of the music I discovered when I looked at the basic songs - the melodies, harmonic structure, arrangements, etc. The melodies exhibit a degree of sophistication in terms of their relationships to the underlying harmonies which one seldom finds in music of this genre - yet their linear logic is ultimate simplicity. His free borrowing of styles - Waltzes, Tangos, Gospel, Blues - shows the sophistication of his inspiration. His arrangements and choice of unusual song forms have variety and always add clarity to his musical message.

To top it off, I was stunned to go back and really listen in the studio to his records. They're pioneering the techniques we're now all using in multitrack recording. The use of doublings, overdubs, wild pannings, flanging effects, sound effects, reversing tape, varispeed effects--it's wildly creative. It's rough around the edges though... As a matter of fact it's been said that in some cases his music itself is better than the existing recordings of it in terms of production quality. (To be fair though, that could be said of a lot of recorded music from the past.)

In the same light, I was impressed by how his songs convey a meaning in and of themselves - just melody and harmony - even without the "icing" that his sound, talent and musical charisma provided them. I was also impressed with their ability to cross the lines of style, into this realm of jazz piano.

I was inspired to do this collection in part by recordings of jazz pianist Oscar Peterson's treatments of the music of West Side Story, and the songs of Frank Sinatra - recordings made some 30 plus years ago. In Oscar's case I found - knowing the original music as I do - that I learned a lot about enjoying the original performances from his new renditions. In some cases he captures a mood as well or better than the original recording, and in other instances he recruits the musical content to emulate a new mood of his choosing or to fit his style. While I don't know what the nature of Oscar's original connection with the music he recorded in these instances is, this new perspective gives these compositions new life, and extends their appeal to those who, for instance, might not ever elect to listen to a Frank Sinatra record.

In my case, my connection to the music of Hendrix is extremely strong. It was the music I was weaned on, it represented my first expression of musical individuality, and he was my first mentor. So it's not outlandish to say that the music of Jimi Hendrix provided the inspiration that compelled me to be a musician in the first place. I've found no matter how far I get in the pursuit of adding technique and sophistication to my own musical vocabulary, I can return to Hendrix' music and find that original inspiration intact. Somehow, I find that comforting, Perhaps it's a sign to me that as you grow up at least some things actually do stay the same. Perhaps he's one of a few remarkable musicians that created an art that will remain timeless. Maybe I just can't argue with that energy! Whatever it is, doing this CD has allowed me to come full circle. And while the gift Jimi gave me I can never begin to repay--I hope this effort can be a small step in that direction.

Reed W. Robins

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