In the year before his death in 1970 at the age of 27, Jimi Hendrix convened a new power trio called Band of Gypsys with drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox–the group with whom he planned to forge a new path for his musical career. The band made their live debut at The Fillmore East for a 2-night, 4-show run over New Year’s ’69-70, where they planned to record an album that would fulfill his obligations to a former manager and allow him the freedom to move forward with his music unshackled. While fans were unsure what to expect from this new-look Hendrix group, the shows were a huge success.
Concert promoter Bill Graham called the shows “the most brilliant, emotional display of virtuoso electric guitar” that he had ever heard. In total, the band performed and recorded 24 different songs, comprised of new material written by the group as well as unreleased Hendrix demos like “Machine Gun” and “Izabella”, but inconsistent recordings led Hendrix and engineer Wally Heider to whittle the Band of Gypsys album down to just six tracks. After the Fillmore run, the Band of Gypsys would play just one more show (at the Winter Festival For Peace in 1970) before disbanding due to Hendrix’s increasingly untenable drug abuse. By the end of that year, Hendrix had passed away. Band of Gypsys was his final record.
The album showed a new direction for Hendrix, with deep, improvisational explorations and notes of driving funk, R&B, and soul that would go on to influence countless artists over the ensuing decade and beyond. To this day, as new generations of music fans come of age, many wistfully wonder to what heights the revolutionary guitarist could have risen on his new trajectory had he not tragically left us so soon. Band of Gypsys stands as a brief taste of what could have been.
On Saturday, December 16th, Roosevelt Collier Trio will bring their “Jimi Meets Funk” tribute to Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory along with diamond-in-the-rough New Haven jam scene favorites Eggy (for more information about the show, or to grab your tickets, head here). To prepare you for Collier’s funky tribute to the late guitar legend, check out five memorable tributes to Jimi Hendrix’s later, funkier work with and the Band of Gypsys by some of our favorite live acts:
“Power of Soul” – Umphrey’s McGee – 9/21/11
“Power of Soul”, originally titled “Power to Love”, is one of the songs Hendrix brought with him when he started Band of Gypsys. The tune was emblematic of a change in Hendrix’s songwriting at that time, as he moved from the playful humor of his early work and toward a strident new sense of self-examination. You can watch Umphrey’s McGee performing “Power of Soul” at their 9/21/11 show at Pittsburgh’s Stage AE below (via YouTube user mattcastaway):
“Machine Gun” – Widespread Panic – 2/23/16
Generally regarded as the highlight of Band of Gypsys, “Machine Gun” is an anti-war protest epic that draws on Hendrix’s early blues aspirations, but incorporates new improvisational approaches and tonal textures that help paint a vivid picture in the mind of the listener. You can watch Widespread Panic perform “Machine Gun” (as well as War‘s “Four Cornered Room”) at their 2/23/16 show in Norfolk Virginia below:
“Who Knows?” – Ben Harper – Live Eurockéennes de Belfort 2008
“Who Knows?” served as the opening number for both the second and third show at the Fillmore. Band of Gypsys’ characteristic mix of improvisation and R&B/funk elements is clearly evident in the song, framed by Cox’s economical funk-blues bass line and Miles’ steady drum beat. Below, you can watch pro-shot footage of Ben Harper performing “Who Knows?” at France’s Live Eurockéennes de Belfort in 2008 (via Vimeo user silva):
“All Along The Watchtower” – Phish w/ Buddy Miles and Merl Saunders – 10/22/96
On 10/22/96, Band of Gypsys drummer Buddy Miles (as well as Jerry Garcia collaborator Merl Saunders) joined Phish at Madison Square Garden for an encore performance of “All Along The Watchtower”. The Bob Dylan-penned song was recorded by Hendrix in his heyday, and his version remains the seminal rendition of the song–a classic performance in the pantheon of rock n’ roll. While Band of Gypsys never actually performed the tune, Phish used Miles’ presence as a learning opportunity, following his lead and channeling the Band of Gypsys sound. Below, you can watch the Phish guys soak up Miles’ wisdom during a backstage rehearsal session, as well as fan-shot footage of their live performance of the song (via YouTube user Lawrence Blumenstein).
Tribute to Band of Gypsys (Full Video) – Roosevelt Collier, Adam Deitch, Ron Johnson, Jennifer Hartswick – 7/13/14
Finally, you can get a taste of what’s to come on February 24th with full-show footage of Roosevelt Collier’s last Band of Gypsys tribute at BB King’s Bar and Blues Club in New York City on 7/13/14 with Adam Deitch, Ron Johnson and Jennifer Hartswick (via YouTube user LazyLightning55a):
Dont miss Roosevelt Collier Trio’s Jimi Meets Funk w/ Eggy @ Knitting Factory Brooklyn on Decemver 16th at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, NY. Grab your tickets here!
[Cover photo via Jimi Hendrix VEVO]