Jimmy Haslip: How Jimi Hendrix changed my life

Photo of Jimmy Haslip
(Image credit: Photo by Andrew Lepley/Redferns)

Although he is primarily known for his decades-long work with progressive jazz ensemble the Yellowjackets, low-end veteran Jimmy Haslip’s early formative years were not steeped in jazz but rather firmly planted in rock and funk.

“I was a big fan of Motown, Stax, Tamla and Atlantic/Atco recordings, and I was a huge Berry Oakley fan,” says Jimmy. “I saw Sly and the Family Stone four times in the NYC area. This band took you to a totally new place as far as rhythm and blues was concerned. And then there was the joy of listening to the bassist Larry Graham! He rocked the house!”

Considering that a typical Haslip solo is likely to be a jaw-dropping display of complex harmonic improvisation in the tradition of a jazz horn player, you may be surprised to hear that one of his biggest dreams was to jam with Jimi Hendrix.

“Jimi Hendrix was the bomb for me growing up on Long Island and hearing Are You Experienced? for the very first time in May 1967. I was in a cool little band at school and went to hear another band play at a school dance. They already knew some of the songs from this recording and I remember thinking, what in the world is this? I asked the drummer in the band; he said: ‘Man, it’s the new Jimi Hendrix Experience!’"

Eric Marienthal and Jimmy Haslip of Jeff Lorber Fusion performs on stage at Ahoy at North Sea Jazz Festival on July 12, 2014 in Rotterdam, Netherland

(Image credit: Photo by Peter Van Breukelen/Redferns via Getty Images)

"The very next day I went down to the local Sam Goody’s record shop and bought a copy of 'Bold As Love', took it home and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I saw Hendrix five times in concert and that was in itself life changing. It was the most magical and inspiring music for me at a time when I was just starting out as a young inexperienced bass player. It was like a revelation. One of my biggest dreams was to jam with Hendrix. I am still inspired by that thought.”

Jimmy Haslip's Bass Player Articles: Modern Improvisation for Bass is available now (opens in new tab).

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Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.