Is it true that Miles Davis liked what Jimi Hendrix was doing and that Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis planned/discussed to record/play together?

ALEX JOHNSTON ...

Yes.

Miles was supposedly introduced to Hendrix’s music by his then-wife, Betty, née Mabry, who was a figure on the counter-cultural scene at the time: a model, a singer, a DJ and a general scenemaker.

Betty and Miles’ marriage didn’t last very long. Sources disagree as to why it ended: one version is that she had an affair with Hendrix, another is that Miles only thought she had an affair, and broke it off with her on that basis. For her part, Betty always insisted that she hadn’t had an affair, and Miles would probably have been the first person to admit that he didn’t always have great relationships with women. I think the fact that he divorced Betty, but stayed friends with Hendrix, rather bears this out.

Betty Davis went on to make some scorchingly funky 1970s albums, well worth checking out.

But Miles and Hendrix did indeed plan to collaborate, and they hung out a lot and talked music. I read somewhere that Hendrix, faced with the prospect of playing with Miles Davis, talked in interviews about his hopes to study music more deeply; correct me if I’m wrong, Quora.

But the whole plan was cut short by Hendrix’s untimely death.

Miles was, at that point, already collaborating with English guitarist John McLaughlin. McLaughlin was a stunning player who didn’t play anything like Hendrix, but his playing is all over albums such as In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson.

In the wake of Hendrix’s death, Miles recruited players like Pete Cosey and Reggie Lucas, whose Hendrix-influenced playing is a big feature of albums such as Agharta and Pangaea.

Jimi Hendrix’s music undoubtedly affected Miles Davis’ music on a deep level.

It wasn’t just on a ‘purely’ musical level. Miles wanted to connect with his audience, and he noted that Hendrix did that, while the audience for his own mid-60s music was shrinking.

His decision to go electric was fully in keeping with his extraordinary ability to survive in a constantly changing musical landscape.

It wasn’t ‘selling out’. Miles’ electric music took a while to be accepted, and other performers of jazz-rock, many of whom had served time in Miles’ band (e.g. Joe Zawinul with Weather Report, John McLaughlin with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Chick Corea with Return to Forever) sold far more units than he did.

It was about Miles’ determination to communicate. He knew that, to communicate, you had to adopt the language that people spoke.

Hendrix’s music was an element of that language. And Miles Davis, who at that stage was past 40, successfully incorporated rock music into his own music, something that no other jazz musician of his generation did with quite such élan and confidence.

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