Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Miles Davis, Tony Williams: the Supergroup that Might Have Been
Before Jimi Hendrix’ death in 1970, plans had been in the works for a recording session with Hendrix and Miles Davis. Tony Williams would be the drummer. The bass player would hopefully be Paul McCartney.
On October 21, 1969, Jimi Hendrix sent this telegram to Paul McCartney:
“We are recording and LP together this weekend. How about coming in to play bass stop call Alan Douglas 212-5812212. Peace Jimi Hendrix Miles Davis Tony Williams.”
A Beatle aide replied to the telegram the next day, saying that Paul McCartney was on vacation and would not be back for two more weeks. And that was that. The recording was never made.
One can only imagine what this music would have sounded like. Jimi Hendrix was getting more experimental during his last few months. And Miles Davis was experimenting in the opposite direction. This was around the time that his second jazz-fusion album, Bitches Brew, was released. (“In a Silent Way” was released a year earlier.) Both of these albums combined all the intricacies of jazz with rock and roll’s power and immediacy, electric guitars, and every electronic gizmo in the world hooked up to Miles’ trumpet.
Tony Williams was as “out there” as any jazz drummer, but like Miles Davis, he could fit into any conceivable jazz-rock-experimental setting.
And this brings us to Paul McCartney. Meaning no disrespect, but was/is Paul McCartney really this legendary virtuoso of the bass? Back in the day, I liked the Beatles as much as the next person. And Paul McCartney’s first two solo albums — after the Beatles’ breakup — totally kicked ass. Wings and everything else that came after: two thumbs down. (IMHO)
Anyway, as much as I liked the Beatles and the first two McCartney solo albums, I don’t remember ever thinking “Whoa! Check out that bass solo!”
In the annual Playboy Jazz and Pop Poll — which I haven’t seen in decades; I don’t even know if it exists any more — Paul McCartney was ALWAYS voted Best Bass Player. Seriously. Runners up: Charles Mingus, Ray Brown, Miroslav Vitous, Ron Carter. Number One: Paul McCartney.
I never understood that. The poll winners were a pretty eclectic mix of rock, pop and the major jazz categories: mainstream, avant-garde, fusion, etc. And yet Paul McCartney always came out ahead of these incredible jazz titans. Am I missing something?
In any case, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and Tony Williams must have known what they were doing when they invited Paul McCartney to be their bass player.
We’ll never know what we missed. Weather Report used to call themselves “the Best Fuckin’ Band in the world, Man.” They might have been just second best if the Hendrix-Davis-Williams-McCartney band had made that recording.