When the Kronos Quartet closed their first album for the Nonesuch label in '86 with this brittle version of Jimi Hendrix's '67 hit even liner note writer Gregory Sandow had to concede that, after a programme of works by Peter Sculthorpe, Aulis Sallinen, Philip Glass and Conlon Nancarrow, it had all the hallmarks of a built-in encore.
Known for introducing works and commissions by cutting edge composers (most of them still living), they had already essayed work by Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans from the jazz arena alongside contemporary classical composers, but this was something a little different.
Ever since the Boston Pops Orchestra took to playing Beatles songs, popular music had been arranged for small groups and orchestras, but mostly they were very conservative (usually the Beatles' most popular material in fact).
However in this arrangement (by Steve Riffkin) the Kronos Quartet effectively mimicked Hendrix's feedback and introduced it at the end of this taut, tense and tight three minutes -- even though feedback isn't on the orignal.
They were adapting Jimi Hendrix and inhabiting his music in a way that few other classical players had attempted, or perhaps would dare to, with rock music.
And as Sandow noted, by doing so this rather reversed the notion of bringing pop and rock music to a classical setting. But by placing it on this album it advanced the idea that the most characteristic music of our world isn't "classical" music but something else, predominantly pop and rock.
And this version -- by its musical context -- also took contemporary classical music to an audience more familar with electric and electrifying rock.
It was also just a pretty terrific version of Hendrix.
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By Graham Reid, posted