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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Celebrating Jimi Hendrix: Reuben's Top Five Favorite Compositions

Thomas Hawk
Jimi Hendrix would have turned 72 years old on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014. To celebrate, Reuben Jackson chooses his top 5 favorite Hendrix compositions.

On Nov. 27, 2014, James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix would have turned 72 years old. To celebrate his legacy, I’ve chosen five of my favorite Hendrix compositions. Choosing just five is like choosing my favorite Vermont fall day – nearly impossible to do.

I hope you enjoy my top five choices as much as I do.

1. Machine Gun. This searing, mournful anti-war title from Jimi's 1970 Band Of Gypsys album finds his fluid guitar work and blues drenched vocals in fine form. In this piece, he's joined by bassist Billy Cox and drummer/vocalist Buddy Miles.

2. Castles Made Of Sand. I have a deep love for Hendrix's more pensive, poetic side. Castles is from the Jimi Hendrix Experience collection entitled Axis: Bold As Love. His mastery of internal rhyme is but one of the treasures found in this song, which skillfully addresses impermanence in its many forms.

3. House Burning Down. A title from the double album Electric Ladyland, House was inspired by the Watts race riots of 1965. This sound painting howls like wind-blown flames.

4. Freedom. This lean, confident, and declamatory Hendrix original was released on the 1971 Cry Of Love collection. Jimi's guitar work is as terse as Hemingway's prose and he's joined by the vocal group The Ghetto Fighters. Freedom also finds drummer Mitch Mitchell at his funky/ and jazzy best.

5. Bold As Love. The title track from this album beautifully combines Hendrix's under-sung rhythm guitar work, textual genius and a solo guitar cadenza which defines pretension-free grandeur.

On Friday Night Jazz, November 28 at 8 p.m., the celebration continues with Hendrix-influenced work from Miles Davis, Gerald Clayton, pianist Tommy Flanagan and many others. I chose to play these pieces because they are all jazz musicians who play music very different from Hendrix’s style, but are influenced and inspired by him all the same.

Reuben was the host of Friday Night Jazz on VPR.
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