|The Hendrix and Traffic Recordings: 1968-1970|
In a time of explosive musical innovation during the late 1960s, Jimi Hendrix and the members of Traffic shared a mutual admiration that resulted in an extraordinary level of interaction in the studio, on stage, and just relaxing. Their interaction led to participation by Traffic members on at least two released Hendrix recordings, and possibly other studio recordings which were not released but have circulated on bootleg tapes and CDs. These intriguing recordings have fascinated collectors for decades.
This overview draws together information about all of these sessions based on research by Dan Ropek and Stephen Smith. Reliable information about these recordings is quite sparse, ultimately due to the lack of original documentation but further compounded by the vagaries of the bootleg market. We have identified these issues and attempted to sift through some of them.
Steve Winwood is generally known to have spent considerable time with Jimi between 1968 and 1970, and to have played on two released tracks and a number of unreleased outtakes, demos, and jams, but which ones are often uncertain. In fact, in John McDermott's book Jimi Hendrix: Sessions (1995), Buddy Miles is quoted as saying that they considered asking Winwood to join what would become the Band of Gypsys. A VH-1 special about the Electric Ladyland album also included several references to wanting Steve to join the group. Chris Wood and Dave Mason also contributed to released recordings, and Jim Capaldi may have been involved with some jams.
In the most famous recording involving Hendrix and Traffic members, Steve Winwood played organ on "Voodoo Chile", released on Jimi's album Electric Ladyland (1968). The album's musician credits include this part, as well as roles for Chris Wood and Dave Mason described under Other Interactions below.
John McDermott, in his exhaustively researched book Jimi Hendrix: Sessions (1995), describes the recording session for "Voodoo Chile" on May 2, 1968, actually early morning May 3. He explains that Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, Steve Winwood, and Jack Casady (of Jefferson Airplane) recorded 3 takes of the song. The third take was released on Electric Ladyland, and a composite of the 3 takes was later released as "Voodoo Chile Blues" on Jimi Hendrix: Blues (1994). The session took place at the Record Plant studio in New York City.
The recording session for this song has circulated on tape among collectors for years. The tape is billed as New York City's Record Plant studio, May 2, 1968, "Voodoo Chile - Slight Return" (incorrectly), with Hendrix, Mitchell, Winwood, and Casady. The session is mesmerizing in terms of the organic interplay between Jimi and Steve, as well as the overall chemistry of the ensemble. They really seem simpatico, and it's enlightening to hear the short evolution of the final product over just a few takes. "Voodoo Chile" seems to have amazingly sprung forth almost fully formed in less than an hour. The tape consists of six tracks.
The tracks on this tape fit McDermott's description fairly well. He mentions 3 takes rather than 5, perhaps because he does not count tape tracks 2 and 4 at all or just not as separate takes. The apparent validity of tracks 1-5 on the tape lend credence to the inclusion of track 6 as part of this session, but McDermott does not provide enough information to support it.
Steve Winwood and Chris Wood sang backing vocals on "Ezy Ryder", released posthumously on Jimi's album Cry Of Love (1971). This track has also appeared on several later releases, including Voodoo Soup (1995) and First Rays Of The New Rising Sun (1997). The roles are credited on all of these albums.
John McDermott, in his book Jimi Hendrix: Sessions (1995), describes the recording session for "Ezy Ryder" on June 15, 1970. He explains that Steve and Chris added the backing vocals to "Ezy Ryder" and later jammed extensively with Jimi and Dave Palmer (of Ted Nugent's Amboy Dukes). The text mentions a jam loosely based on "Pearly Queen", "Valleys of Neptune", an extended and unstructured jam with Jimi and Chris, "Slow Blues" with a vocalist, and other jams. The session took place at Electric Lady studios in New York.
A tape of jams billed as Hendrix and Traffic has circulated among collectors for years. Some of the material is also on the bootleg CD Jimi Hendrix & Traffic: A Session. A purely instrumental affair, alternately dated as 1968 or 1970, this studio material is among the most intriguing unreleased pieces of either performer. The lineup is listed as Jimi Hendrix (guitar), Steve Winwood (piano), Chris Wood (flute), Rick Grech (bass), and Jim Capaldi (drums), but the actual lineup of these recordings is uncertain. Only Hendrix is identifiable with certainty. The overall sound resembles Traffic, and the piano and flute parts seem particularly recognizable as Steve and Chris, respectively.
The music on the tape consists of seven jams that, in contrast to Traffic's usual melodic sensibilities, range from minor key to almost atonal structure. Some of the magic of the "Voodoo Chile" session is also evident on this recording. The jams sound basically spontaneous, organized around particular keys with shifting tempos, and lack a distinct song structure. None of them sound like they were even intended to have vocal parts. For the most part, the piano and drums drive the rhythms while the guitar and flute solo. The extraordinary aspect of the recording is the complementary interplay between Jimi and Chris. While Jimi builds upon driving vamps that eventually erupt into molten solos, Chris counterbalances with his usual delicate, mellowing flute. The result of this collaboration is at least interesting, and sometimes magical. Unlike other Hendrix jam sessions, Jimi seems to have a lot of respect for Traffic and doesn't fully dominate the proceedings, which makes the session perhaps unique to both entities.
The bootleg CD, Jimi Hendrix & Traffic: A Session (CD, Oh Boy 1-9027, Luxembourg), consists of three jams of excellent quality studio recordings. The insert states that the session "was recorded at an unknown place in the late 60's". Credits are Jimi Hendrix (guitar), Chris Wood (flute and saxophone), Jim Capaldi (drums), and Steve Winwood (organ). In the book Jimi Hendrix: Electric Gypsy (1995), by Harry Shapiro and Caesar Glebbeek, the well researched discography section lists the CD as released in late 1990, and recorded in 1968 or 1969. The tracks are "Jam Thing" (19:39), "Guitar Thing" (5:15), and "Session Thing" (35:27).
The jams tape consists of eight tracks, described here musically but in non-technical terms.
The middle track of the bootleg CD, "Guitar Thing" (5:15), is credited as Hendrix. This is just Jimi playing. Shapiro and Glebbeek credit both Hendrix (guitar) and Buddy Miles (drums), explaining that this snippet is part of an "Untitled" improvisation which has no Traffic involvement, recorded November 14, 1969. They also indicate that the full track was previously released on the bootleg LP First Rays of the New Rising Sun in 1987, and later released on a bootleg CD. Traffic is obviously not involved with this track, and this clarification resolves the mystery of its origin.
Rolling Stone magazine (December 27, 1969), under the caption "Blind Faith Split ? Yes, No, Maybe...", reported that "...Steve Winwood, just finished with his solo LP, is talking about a jam session with Jimi Hendrix and Lee Michaels for an album". If this ever took place, it was never released. The solo LP was Mad Shadows, later re-titled John Barleycorn Must Die.
During shows with the group Chic in Japan in 1996, Steve performed Jimi's song "Stone Free" along with Slash on guitar. Portions of these shows, including this song, were released on Chic's Japan DVD Live In Japan (1996) and on their US CD Live At The Budokan (1999).
Dave Mason recorded in the studio with Hendrix on a number of occasions. Although not included in the musician credits for Electric Ladyland (1968), the liner notes of the MCA CD release indicate that he played acoustic guitar on "All Along The Watchtower" and backing vocal on "Crosstown Traffic". Much of Dave's recordings with Jimi have never been released, though. A collectors' tape in circulation, dated 1968, consists of Jimi and Dave noodling together on low volume electric guitars for about thirty five minutes. The recording lacks excitement, since there are no vocals and the playing is rather nondescript, especially for Jimi.
A three hour live jam session at Steve Paul's Scene Club in New York City, apparently in 1968, included Hendrix, Jon Lord (of Deep Purple), Buddy Miles, Steve Stills (bass), and Dave Mason. According to Modern Keyboard magazine (January 1989), the session went over so well that the "supergroup" played two more nights. The European Winwood fanzine Coloured Rain (issue 20) provides a date for the session of May 9, 1968, from Tony Brown's book Jimi Hendrix, The Visual Documentary - His Life, Loves and Music (1992). This date seems to be referring to yet another show, though, since the groups (or members) listed as playing include Traffic, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Frank Zappa, and the Yardbirds.
A Hendrix tape called Nine To The Universe Outtakes includes, as its last track, an instrumental jam (21:30) with Jimi and Dave Mason dueling on guitar. The tape is named after the posthumous LP derived from 1970 studio sessions. The piece is interesting just to hear the two probing each other to develop a musical relationship and understanding. There are at least three separate pieces of the jam.
Dave jammed on sitar with Jimi on a tape called Jam With Brian Jones, written in Jimi's own handwriting. This material also appeared on a bootleg of Sotheby's Private Reels. "Mushy Name" was one of the proposed titles.
Chris Wood played flute on "1983... (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)", released on Electric Ladyland (1968). He also played flute on "Room Full of Mirrors" at the live Royal Albert Hall concert on February 24, 1969, released on More Experience (1972).
Much remains to be learned about the many interactions between Jimi Hendrix and the members of Traffic. Some of the questions identified here could be resolved in two ways.
Most of the material here was originally compiled in 1996 and subsequently re-written and revised in July 1999 and May 2000 for this article. The material originally appeared in:
See these sites for further information.
Steve Winwood -
Jimi Hendrix -
Page created May 30, 2000.
Last updated June 5, 2000.
Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000 by Dan Ropek and Stephen Smith.