Bob Wolfman – Tribute to a Friend
While some can interpret & mimic the music of a renowned musician, others will see an opportunistic grab by a musician interested in emulating a hero, reproducing what has been done before, & skating away on the thin ice of nostalgia.
Not so much here, however.
While others have gone down this road since Hendrix’s passing 51-years ago certain musicians have produced a respectful hat tip to his style. He was after all a unique performer/musician.
Robin Trower tackled it with lots of his own originality in the early 70s, by playing in a manner that suggested where Jimi may have gone had he lived. There was an imitation band on CD I came to in the 90s that was scary good. Close your eyes & you’d swear it was Jimi. The band name escapes me at this time but like many imitators their career was short-lived.
That brings us to Boston’s marvelous Bob Wolfman (guitar/vocals) who isn’t as much an imitator as an interpreter who was influenced & inspired by Jimi. Bob had the instinct to showcase the Hendrix style with his own vision without an attempt to further embellish the legend’s style.
Wolfman successfully manages to run a thread of personality through the music & doesn’t cheapen it; doesn’t dilute it & doesn’t render it bombastic. He’s one of the few musicians who understood what Hendrix tried to achieve through his guitar.
Produced by Jon Butcher (guitar/bass/background vocals) & joined by other notable musicians: Mark Egan, Ronnie Belben & Wolf Ginandes (bass), Barry Lit (drums/percussion), Sonny Landreth (slide guitar) & Bruce Mattson (Hammond B3 organ/piano).
Tribute to a Friend (Drops Jan 14–Independent) & features 11 cuts. What makes these covers special is that Bob decided not to cover the most famous of the Hendrix catalog. Many are less-performed tunes chosen to not sound so much an imitation as an extension of the Hendrix magic.
“Gypsy Eyes,” opens vividly & with power but slides like “Freedom,” into a more James Dewar vocal style from Robin Trower circa 1973 than Hendrix. No matter – the showcase is fiery & exciting. I feel the cover of “One Rainy Wish,” while done with expertise lacks the fluid mystical approach Jimi had conceived. But, admittedly, Wolfman does an admirable job. He just doesn’t have that expressive Jimi vocal. Who does?
At no time does Bob “sound” like Jimi. That’s the saving grace. This is what makes the effort worthy. It reminds us how special this music was & how well it has aged. “Angel,” is a fine example in the hands of a young, experienced & superb guitarist.
Don’t expect to hear a ghost of Jimi Hendrix. What would be the point? Instead, explore the Bob Wolfman nuances & magical notes that pass down through the years & how Bob’s added to the melodic vintage that was the specialty of the celebrated Hendrix guitar.
Color image: Bob Wolfman & Jon Butcher courtesy of Twitter/ 41-minute CD is available @ https://bobwolfman.com/