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December 9, 2019
Live Review: JIMI HENDRIX BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION: FRANK MARINO & MAHOGANY RUSH - Live at BB Kings Blues Club, NYC – 11/28/08 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 December 2008 03:45
By Ken Volpe, GJD
This past Friday I was fortunate enough to witness Frank Marino and his band, Mahogany Rush, at a one-time only Hendrix Tribute Show.  I knew that I needed to be at this show and that it was going to be something special.

I arrived after the warm-up bands’ performances, just in time to see Frank and his band take the stage in a low-key, unassuming way.  Frank started out by telling the audience a bit about himself and why he felt compelled to do this single tribute show.  For anyone who knows Frank, it is no secret that he is not a man of few words.  But believe me after getting to know him a bit, I can say that there are no wasted words, and Mr. Marino draws from a deep pool of knowledge and wisdom. 

Frank talked about the huge influence that Jimi had on his early life.  Actually, he said that the first time that he went to see Hendrix in the late 1960’s, he walked out in the middle of the show because he wasn’t diggin’ what he was hearing.  Soon after, Frank heard one of Jimi’s recordings and came to the realization that Hendrix and his music were beyond special.

Frank also talked about his experience of playing Jimi’s music on a parade float 35 years ago.  Earlier in the week when I spoke to Frank, he mentioned that despite the influence Jimi’s music had on him, he had not played these classic Hendrix songs since that day three-and-a-half decades ago.  This is what really blows my mind…Okay, think of this: Frank Marino is playing a Hendrix Tribute show, yet he hasn’t played any of these songs in 35 years, and did not even rehearse any of the songs with his band prior to the performance.  He just told the band members which songs they were going to do and for them to listen to them.  So when they took the stage at B.B. King’s club, it was the first time the band actually played the songs together.  So I think we can safely say that Frank has a pretty amazing ear and memory for Jimi’s music. 

After his introductory comments, Frank jumped right into “Purple Haze” as the first number.  Right off the bat I knew that everyone at the club was going to be blown away.  His guitar tones, his vocal inflections and the rest of the band were mesmerizing; they absolutely nailed their parts.  They continued with more Hendrix classics such as “Manic Depression”, “Hey Joe”, “The Wind Cries Mary”, and just about every song that I was hoping to hear.  He even did some more obscure Hendrix tunes that were not usually included in Jimi’s standard live sets, such as “If Six Was Nine”, “House Burning Down”, and “Up From the Skies”.

Once again I must state that every essential note, chord, phrase, lyric, snare hit, and bass note were perfect.  Actually I closed my eyes and pretended that I was at a 1969 Hendrix show.  Since I am 44 years old, I never had the chance to see Hendrix live, and I know in my heart that this is the closest that I will ever come to doing so. 

It’s kind of funny, Frank doesn’t look like Hendrix, he doesn’t play a Strat through a Marshall stack, and he is not a lefty.  However, it was a perfect representation of what Jimi was about.  By the same token, it was still Frank doing his thing.   I guess one way to describe the evening is that Frank portrayed Jimi’s greatness with complete artistic and emotional integrity.

As a matter of fact, I’ve spoken to Frank a couple of times since the show and I wanted to pass on some of his thoughts.  The main thing that he was trying to convey was that this show was about Jimi’s music, the way it was and not about the way he can play it. And he certainly did achieve his goal. 

I know that there are two things that really bug Frank about the whole Hendrix thing.  Number one, the whole commercialization of Jimi ruins the spirit of what he was about.  Number two, the glorification of Jimi’s stage antics and pyrotechnics.  Actually, Jimi was not proud of all that stuff as well.  He was all about his music and channeling that to his audience.  So Frank will never do another one of these shows, nor will he participate in selling a DVD of the show. There was also no sign of the “showboating” that so many Hendrix wannabees insist on doing.  I’d like to tell you something humorous that I told Frank during one of our conversations about the show.  In reference to what I was just talking about, Frank said that some of this stuff surely would make Jimi turn over in his grave.  My response was, “Well after seeing your tribute, I believe that you set the record straight and Jimi once again is on his back and resting comfortably.” 

Frank also discussed some of his feelings about the whole Hendrix tribute.  (One might say it’s Frank being frank.)  In his words: “Spirit, that's what it's about. That's what has been lost, publicly, where Hendrix is concerned. What really gets to me, and let me say this to all the other guys who are out there "doing Hendrix", whether they are pros in one of those commercial extravaganzas, simply guys in a cover band, or even someone sitting at home playing guitar.  Guys, with all due respect, when you do this Hendrix stuff, try to go for the spirit of Hendrix... and not the ghost of Hendrix.”

Let me get back to telling you a bit more about the songs.  Frank’s versions of “Are You Experienced”, “Little Wing” and “Axis Bold as Love” were jaw-dropping.  Something also took place that I have never seen before at a live performance.  At the end of just about every song, a large part of the audience gave Frank and his band a standing ovation.  In addition, I observed that much of the audience throughout the show had their eyes closed, were rocking back and forth and deeply enjoying this rare event.  At the end of the set, Frank played an almost surreal solo version of “The Star Spangled Banner” and then the band returned again for an extended jam version of “Voodoo Child”.  I still can’t believe what I witnessed. 

As you can tell, I am a huge fan of Frank Marino’s music.  My admiration for Frank goes well beyond his musicianship and more towards his spirituality and his humility.  I must also tell you that throughout my life I have never been a huge Hendrix fanatic.  I have always respected the enormous influence that his music and his vibe have had on his fans and guitarists throughout the world.  After seeing this show, I can honestly say that I am a much bigger fan of Jimi Hendrix.  I also believe that the lack of preparation and rehearsal that I spoke about earlier was paramount to the spontaneity and feel of Frank’s set. 

 
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