A Magic Science: Celebrating Jimi Hendrix

What would Jimi play today? These guys have got an idea

December 14, 2000
Jimi Hendrix performing at Royal Albert Hall in London.
Jimi Hendrix performing at Royal Albert Hall in London.
David Redfern/Redferns

A Magic Science
Brooklyn Academy of Music

October 21st, 2000

It is rock's great what if puzzle: What would Jimi Hendrix be playing today? His influence as a guitarist and sound alchemist is so pervasive that we forget about the revolutions he missed, such as hip-hop and electronica, by leaving us so early. For the two nights of A Magic Science, a tribute crew including guitarist Vernon Reid, the jazz-etcetera trio Medeski Martin and Wood, and members of the Gil Evans Orchestra rescored more than a dozen Hendrix songs for the twenty-first century in ways that would have both puzzled and pleased the composer.

A bipolar "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" typified the liberties taken here. After a space-church vocal turn by Sandra St. Victor, the song swung into a reggae strut at odds with the majestic sadness of Hendrix's '68 reading but which suggested the mischief he and Bob Marley might have made together. "Spanish Castle Magic" literally became rock en Espanol: Marc Anthony Thompson, a.k.a. Chocolate Genius, belted it in Spanish over the warring sound of Reid's guitar and the turntables of DJ Logic.

Singer-guitarist Chris Whitley, who performed the first night, was a no-show this evening; a light show by Glenn McKay, a Fillmore-era veteran, was more eye fun than environment. But magic abounded: MMW and DJ Logic's Bronx-playground-fusion spin on "Third Stone From the Sun"; Badal Roy's tabla drumming and St. Victor's freestyling in "Are You Experienced?," which sounded like Prince on the Ganges. In a stunning "Hey Joe," St. Victor worked the hurt like Sarah Vaughan against the blue-noir trumpet of Miles Evans, the late Gil's son. To Hendrix, music was the poetry of exploration; A Magic Science was a fine salute to his belief that the searching never stops.

This story is from the December 14th, 2000 issue of Rolling Stone.

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