The final living member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, drummer John “Mitch” Mitchell, has passed on at the age of 61. To call him influential would be an understatement: The work that the Jimi Hendrix Experience did over their brief existence and three proper albums is fairly unimpeachable, mostly killer with little filler. Forget the stuff they’ve scavenged off Jimi’s bones in the nearly forty years since his death–the Experience stuff is where it’s at, an astounding blend of blues and psychedelic rock that still sounds avant to these ears.
Mitchell, who had previously worked with Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames and The Pretty Things, brought a jazz touch to the proceedings and, subsequently, has been tagged a progenitor of the fusion crowd, which does him a disservice. Unlike a lot fusion jazzbos to follow in his footsteps, he adhered to tasteful melodicism. He had to work around some “playerly” players in Hendrix and guitarist-cum-bassist Noel Redding, following their leads and darting in and out of what little rhythmic space they left him. He was loose but never ramshackle, and he could wield a light touch that remained emphatic. As a drummer, I’ve always respected him for his ability to move around inside of a song and still rock the shit out of it. He could barrel through a tune with the best of them, but I think it’s the quieter and weirder moments like “The Wind Cries Mary” or “The Burning of the Midnight Lamp” where he really showed his creativity. If it sounds like he was one of my favorite drummers, well, he was, and I’m sad to see him go.