photo by nacrowe
much like his previous book on another legendary SEATTLE musician (HEAVIER THAN HEAVEN / KURT COBAIN), ROOM FULL OF MIRRORS (2006, Hachette Books) by CHARLES R. CROSS is a sensitive portrait of a transcendent cultural figure whose modesty and private introversion belied his public persona.
the striking thing i walked away from this book, aside from new knowledge of the formative experiences of JIMI HENDRIX on the chitlin' circuit as a hired gun for the likes of LITTLE RICHARD and THE ISLEY BROTHERS among others, was his evolution. ever expanding his musical lexicon to incorporate new ideas, technology, chemicals, etc as a means of further refining an expression of consciousness that only he could translate.
in a way he was a shaman, a gatekeeper temporarily transporting us to another reality. whenever i hear his music i feel the higher ideals he promoted so ardently, those notions of free love and brotherhood which seem so naive in the modern trump-ocalpyse we are all currently living through. HENDRIX invites us to a metaphysical world that isn't defined by race, gender or worldly possessions, it is a landscape of sound and vibrations.
CROSS balances presenting the many sides of HENDRIX by those who knew him best while largely conceding that the man was a vagabond, a self-described gypsy that transcended his early modest upbringing to produce some of the most epochal music of the 20th century. he was HENDRIX not because of SEATTLE or his childhood, but because of the choices he made as a self-made entity. he was the ultimate cultural sponge, learning from all his experiences. his real genius in my opinion was his ability to contextualize blues, jazz and rock n' roll into a singular cohesive statement.
this genius of taking what came before and creating a new lexicon for all that came thereafter is something i can only point to composers/musicians like IGOR STRAVINSKY or LOUIS ARMSTRONG as comparable in the last century. he literally changed modern guitar playing, arguably the featured instrument of 20th century popular music.
regardless, this book is worth looking into as well as his equally excellent HEAVIER THAN HEAVEN about NIRVANA frontman KURT COBAIN.