Coming at an artists backwards is always a big of an issue. Not only as it’s sort of unfair to the artist – we get our notions of what the artist sounds like when they are “mature” and try to apply that to their early work – but also as it’s unfair to the listener, often, because we don’t have a chance to grow with the artist, to learn from whatever journey they’re on. For example, I had no idea Acoustic Ladyland actually started out as an acoustic band performing Hendrix covers. I mean, I did know that intellectually, but I wasn’t prepared for it, because all I knew of them was the sort of alternative rock / jazz fusion thing they did a little later.
And yet I seem to do this a lot. And normally I regret it. Not this time.
To my ears, this is on the level with the other great Hendrix tribute, The Kennedy Experience, though the music is entirely different. Not only does Acoustic Ladyland perform a fine, worthy tribute to Hendrix, as Kennedy himself did half a decade earlier, but they run the gamut of a number of different jazz styles – or more accurately, perhaps, variations within one style – and that keeps things interesting even when it becomes harder to sonically tell which Hendrix song it is they are covering – apparently they were denied permission to credit Hendrix or something.
There’s a rock quality groove to many of these tracks not normally found in much fusion, and much more common to jazz funk hybrids – or, given the acoustic nature of this record, soul jazz and hard bop. But there’s also a willingness to move beyond traditional western tonality – certainly something Hendrix didn’t have a problem with – that keeps the sound modern enough to please someone like me, who generally hates it when people try to play bop in the 20th century.