MIKE HOLMES REVIEW [...]
Karry J. Fitch | San rafael, CA usa | 04/25/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mike.Holmes's [...] Full Review: Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix * by Hiram Bullock
Hiram Bullock was an accomplished musician who played great jazz funk and fusion guitar. Bullock studied piano at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. Although he also played sax and bass, the guitar was his main instrument. Over the years, Hiram played with a huge number of both jazz and rock bands including David Sanborn, Bob James, Steely Dan, Sting, Billy Joel and the Becker Brothers.
Bullock also played in the "World's Most Dangerous Band" led by Paul Shaffer on the David Letterman Show from the inception of the show until 1984.
This CD, which was recorded in 2004, wasn't released until February of this year (2009). That's a great pity because Mr. Bullock died in July of 2008 due to throat cancer. When I purchased the album and started playing it on my radio show, I hadn't realized that Mr. Bullock had died. For some bizarre reason, there is no mention of his death in the liner notes for the album.
I bought the CD for several reasons. First of all, I love the music of Jimi Hendrix although I had seldom heard it played with the passion that Hendrix always had. Secondly, I noticed that Hiram was joined on the album by the great jazz drummer Billy Cobham and the fantastic WDR Big Band from Germany. The WDR band is one of the finest big bands playing.
All of the songs on the album are Hendrix originals but the arrangements are byBernd Lesctenfeld. Also playing on the CD are Stefan Rademacher on electric bass and Christopher Dell on vibraphone.
From the very first notes on the album, I was hooked by both Hiram's playing and singing and the incredible big band accompaniment. The first song, "CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC/LITTLE MISS LOVER" (a medley obviously) starts off with the big band joined by Rademacher's bass. Bullock then gets in some great licks on guitar before he starts singing in his big bass voice. Bullock then shows off his guitar licks with the closest approximation of the Hendrix sound that I've ever heard. Hiram plays an extended solo on his ax that is pure fusion of hard rock and jazz. His solo is followed by a screaming tenor sax solo as the rest of the WDR band comps behind. Incredibly hot opener which the live audience in Germany obviously loved.
"RED HOUSE" is the next Hendrix masterpiece. Bullock starts with a few hot notes on guitar followed by the big band. Hiram then sings some pure funky blues bemoaning the fact that he hasn't seen "his baby in 99 and 1/2 days." The song is tongue and cheek but Bullock's guitar playing is powerful. He's joinined by Frank Chastenier on organ for several flatout "Hendrix-channeling" moments. There's a point in the song that has Bullock's guitar solo flaming. The audience erupts in pleasure. Chastenier then plays a "Jimmy Smith-like" solo on organ. Lord, I would have loved to have seen this in person!
Next up is "FOXY LADY" which starts off with a quote from "Wild Thing" by Bullock on vocal and guitar before gliding into "Foxy" with a power and passion that is astounding. Both Hiram's guitar and vocal and the entire big band arrangement is pure funky blues for several bars. A cool ensemble sax section intervenes, followed by a "down-home" trombone solo before Hiram comes back in with more tremedous guitar riffs.
"LITTLE WING" opens with a more sedate vocal by Hiram over a church-like organ comping. The arrangement here is something to behold with a combination of soulful funk and an gospel-like blues from the band and Hiram's guitar. Truly beautiful.
"VOODOO CHILD" opens with an amazing "talking guitar" from Hiram followed by a echoing trombone. To be truthful, I'm not sure what the instrumentation is for the next several bars. With a haunting sound that could be a synthesizer or a guitar, there are several bars of the most unusual playing that I've heard. What I do know is that the music is pure funk and the crowd loves it.
The album's last two songs are "GIPSY EYES" and "MANIC DEPRESSION" which continue the powerful Hendrix music played with the combination of blues and jazz fusion.
I noticed that this album was not mixed until August of 2008, a month after Bullock died. I don't understand why. This is one of the finest albums I've heard that manages to play tribute to the great Jimi Hendrix while attaining a true level of originality.
FIVE STARS is really not enough.