Tea Time With Jesse

Six of One, Half Dozen the Other

Music Fridays – Really Listening

Posted by middlerage on March 30, 2013

This post only has one music video, because I want to spend my time talking about music. Or, hopefully, dialoguing.

As I get older, I find myself revisiting past music with new ears, so to speak, hearing things I didn’t hear before. I wonder if this is the difference between musicians and non-musicians; it takes longer for us non-musicians to really see the forest for the trees. As a lay person, I have always been attracted to the leading-man, hero, guitar gods. That is what I initially hear. That is what I want to be. And of course you can’t talk about guitar deities without mentioning Jimi Hendrix. He is one of my favorite and longest loves of all things Rock-n-Roll; he is a voodoo music god, and you’d expect I’d want to make a post about him and highlight his expertise. Instead, however, I want to talk about the other two members in his band –  drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding. Perhaps, with the benefit of several years, now, of listening to Jazz and classical music, I return to Jimi Hendrix and the Experience able to hear an ensemble. And boy am I blown away.

In the video below, I wish I had a karaoke machine to eliminate the voice, and fade the guitar. I really want you to listen to the drumming. Rather than the thump-tap of basic back beat drumming, you hear a call and response dynamic between Jimi and Mitch, with the drums just whacking out a flurry of funky – what? dare I say melody? My musician friends are more than welcome to chime in.

Not being a musician, I turn to that ubiquitous source for all knowledge – Wikipedia. The entry for Mitch Mitchell describes his technique as “lead style” playing, resulting in an interplay with the lead guitar. Sounds good to me. the entry for bassist Noel Redding says time-keeping duties fell to him,  allowing Mitchell to stretch out and wail with non-time-keeping riffs. Again, I leave it to my musician readers to analyze the correctness of those entries, but I as I listen to the song below I AM UTTERLY FLOORED by Mitchell and Redding. I (gasp) hardly even hear the guitarist, anymore. AWESOME.

Herewith, Fire, by The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

5 Responses to “Music Fridays – Really Listening”

  1. Dahveed said

    I’ve always thought that Mitch Mitchell was criminally underrated as a rock drummer. Ginger Baker gets all the accolades, but for my money, MM was the shiznit. MM totally makes _Fire_, _Up from the Skies_ and a whole bunch of other songs. Without him, they would be ordinary. And I totally agree with you — MM and JH had a sort of telepathic musical interplay, especially on Electric Ladyland where they stretch out more. Now, I’m not as nuts about Noel Redding. I think that MM’s jazz background gave him a common ground with Hendrix’s R&B feel, that NR didn’t share. To me, NR’s playing is competent, but kind of stiff and kind of whitebread. I like the way that Billy Cox sounded with JH better. I would have loved to have heard Hendrix, Mitchell, Cox, and Steve Winwood on B-3. That would have been something…

    • middlerage said

      Your dream team sounds like dah bomb. thanks for the primer on Cox, I will be sure to give his Jimi work a special listen. It seems like every year, they “discover” more studio sessions and remaster them and put out JH archival stuff. One could go broke.

  2. The observation I’ll make is that on “Fire” Mitchell teaches a masterclass on how to play a soloistic drum fill (over and over) while keeping time. He never loses the beat, and it’s clear when Hendrix and Redding should come back in. It sounds obvious, but it’s shocking how many players lose track of the fact that if they’re playing a solo fill — all by themselves — that they need to keep the beat so the rest of the band knows when to come back in. I’m sensitive about this, because in a big band you have around 15 other players trying to come in together, and if the pulse gets lost it’ll be a train wreck.

    In smaller groups it’s easier for the rest of the band to communicate with big eyes and ignore the soloist who’s destroyed any sense of pulse — as demonstrated by The Who ignoring Keith Moon and managing to make a clean entrance after an extended drum fill.

    • middlerage said

      Wow. Fascinating ob. It is interesting to me how many of the 60s Brit rock drummers came from a jazz background (at least it seems to me – but I won’t claim I’ve researched this theory). I dunno how it is today.

      • I’m not sure I’d credit a jazz background as being the key here. Mitchell was simply a good drummer who kept time during his fills. 45 years later, I encounter these problems much more often with jazz or big-band players (because it’s not just drummers — any player can have a solo break, lose the pulse, and screw the band) than with rock, reggae, or polka players.

        Jazz players nowadays are programmed to inevitably get more complex, the longer they solo. Non-percussion players have the option of getting more harmonically complex, as well as changing up the rhythms. Drummers only have rhythms to play with, so they tend to go off the deep end.

        Don’t get me wrong — great drummers can go crazy with rhythmic complexity, and other great players can still feel the pulse. But I’m not a great player, and maybe I unfairly maligned Keith Moon earlier. Allow me to reiterate: I’m not a great trumpet player — I’m small-market-pretty-good. And that describes the drummers I play with. I’m not going to try to solo like Freddie Hubbard, and I trust they won’t try to be the second coming of Billy Cobham.

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