Grammy-nominated guitarist jams out to Jimi
The immortal rock icon Jimi Hendrix would’ve turned 80 this November, and in one of his final interviews, he hoped his fans would keep playing his music and “go wild and freak out” long after he was gone. Last Friday, at the Hilo Palace Theatre, Hendrix fans did just that at the “Stanley Plays Jimi” tribute concert.
Jordan’s fascination with Hendrix began at age 11 when he heard the sad news that the legendary guitarist had passed away.
“I remember thinking what a tragedy that was and how important it was to try to further his legacy. He not only left us with this great body of work but the idea of blowing minds with something completely revolutionary and new. I decided at that moment that I wanted to learn how to play guitar and not piano.”
Now at 62, things have come full circle for Jordan. He’s taken his signature “touch technique,” an advanced form of two-handed tapping on the fretboard, and applied it during extended solos in his two-hour Hendrix show.
“That jazz-rock-fusion style Hendrix was reaching for toward the end of his career inspired me. I wanted to follow up on some of those directions, even with the Middle Eastern harmonies and melodies he’d play.”
At one of Jordan’s first Hendrix tribute shows in Shanghai, he met a college student who really liked the conflict she heard in the performance. “I think the structured pop she listened to in China was so different from this style of music. It’s like jumping off a cliff and discovering you can fly.”
In addition to a varied setlist with selections from different periods of Hendrix’s catalog, Jordan also dresses for the role with a leather-fringed jacket and multi-colored headband to re-create the experience of seeing Hendrix in concert.
“I’m approaching it as an actor as well as a musician. I’m doing everything I can to convince people that Jimi Hendrix is on the stage. I’m not a big fan of the word impersonator. I think that belittles, in a way, what I’m doing. With this show, I’m trying to recreate the experience of seeing Jimi play and imagining what he might be doing.”
Jordan’s concept worked well with the Hilo crowd. Some turned out in Hendrix t-shirts, and the seasoned ones shared stories in the ticket line about the time they saw him in concert back in the late sixties.
Midway through the show, those in the general admission section decided they couldn’t hold back any longer and made their way into the gold circle area, where they danced wildly in true rock concert fashion in front of the stage.
Jordan brought along drummer Chris Wabich and bassist Wes Wirth to back him up for this show. He’s played with them over the past few years, and there seemed to be unique on-stage chemistry between Wirth and Jordan. Often, they challenged each other, ratcheting up the frenzy, yet comfortably landing it back in the pocket. At times, Jordan would stand back and let the two musicians wail for a while.
Jordan had a variety of distortion pedals, delays, and reverbs set up on the floor and on a table beside him. They offered a distinctive sound and allowed the guitarist to explore new territory on Hendrix songs like “Angel” and “1983.”
Besides the deep tracks, Jordan played the familiar hits, too, like “Foxy Lady,” “Purple Haze,” and “All Along The Watchtower.”
Jordan has significant tour plans with both his Hendrix tributes and his regular jazz shows this year.
Listen to a backstage interview with Stanley Jordan
Notes & Links
Lover Man | Earth Blues | Untitled Instrumental Jam | Voodoo Chile | Angel | Purple Haze | Villanova Junction Blues | 1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be) | Red House | Hey Joe |
All Along The Watchtower
Concert date: 03/June/2022
About the author: Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: ©2022 Steve Roby