If you’re going to take on Hendrix, you’d better have one great guitar player or rearrange the music to take the heat off of a lesser one. 2B3 indeed rearranged the originals but not because they lacked a guitarist with the proper chops. Far from it. Mike Abbott is a brilliant guitarist and he handles the arrangements exceedingly well.
Then there’s B3 organist Jeff Jenkins who takes brilliant leads and breathes sweet keyboard life into the Jimi guitar tunes. His organ work on Hey Joe is so fine.
I always thought that Mitch Mitchell, Hendrix’s drummer, had the most challenging and rewarding role to play in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The very same can be said of Mike Marlier who takes on the drumming for the rearranged Hendrix numbers and he just owns them. Having played with some of the world’s finest Jazz guitarists, Marlier knows how to work the genre and does it within the Jazz-Rock framework of Jimi.
Mike Abbott explains, “Jeff, Mike, and I happened upon this Jimi album by accident... that's the way we like it. In the summer of 2018, Jeff asked me to play on Foxey Lady which was to be on another album he was finishing. Although I was overdubbing on tracks that Jeff and Mike had already cut, I felt the energy and potential immediately. I think we captured that in 2B3 Jimi.”
Jeff Jenkins goes on, “I've always been interested in pushing the guitar trio genre into new territory. When I started playing with the Mikes it happened quickly and playing this tribute to Jimi was such a natural outcome.”
The chemistry and camaraderie is explained by Mike Marlier, “When you get a chance to play music you love with musicians you love... that's the most gratifying experience. That is certainly the case with this band.”
They explain that their “musical passions run parallel—not just in Jazz but in Rock, Funk, and Pop.” And all of that is readily evident on this album.
The album opens with Purple Haze and immediately the new arrangement grabs your attention but the guitar and B3 take your breath away. Then you hear Marlier bring the thunder. And we’re off!
Manic Depression has one of the coolest intros you ever want to hear with Abbott’s distorted guitar harmonics and the deliberate drumming of Marlier. Jenkins works some magic with the organ and—so help me—the ebb and flow, high and low, of the song takes on a manic-depressive approach. Brilliant.
Little Wing has that same beautiful tone of the Hendrix original but rewritten in different language from 2B3. Abbott turns on the tonality and it sets up Jenkins beautifully. At this point in the album, I have muttered “Holy crap!” to myself about five or six times. Okay, I didn’t say “crap.”
Foxey Lady is as taunting and aggressive as you would hope. You need to hear this. Seriously.
Hey Joe is a fine back-and-forth between Jenkins and Abbott with some of the coolest Jazz lines on the album. It has a Blues streak with a dash of Funk thrown in.
Fire is one of my favorite Hendrix tunes and 2B3 does not disappoint with their arrangement and treatment. Those changes are fantastic and the same driving rhythm is enough to make you sweat. Then Etched in Stone turns on the Gospel in full force. Seriously, Jenkins makes you want to go to church on this one. But the Blues guitar of Abbott reminds you that you really might need some church. I could not get enough of this one.
The album closes with Jimi. It is a beautiful tribute to Hendrix—haunting, melancholic, extraordinary. All three of the artists simply pour their love and respect and admiration for Jimi Hendrix into this final piece on the album. Such a remarkable song. This was worth the price of admission alone but it need not be—the whole album is something wonderful.
2B3 Jimi is something truly special. For Hendrix fans, it is a new and exciting excursion in a familiar land. For Jazz fans, it is great Jazz with Blues, Funk, and Gospel to tighten things up a notch. For those who love Jazz and Hendrix…you are in for a treat.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl