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Danny Bramson Conjures the Musical Spirit of Jimi Hendrix in Jimi: All Is By My Side

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Jimi: All is By My Side
Jimi: All is By My Side

Musical composer Danny Bramson knew his road would be steep when he undertook the job of creating music for the Jimi Hendrix biopic Jimi: All is By My Side. He needed a strategy going forward. “[Director] John Ridley’s poetic story takes place in that underserved year in Jimi’s life in London in that amazingly fertile environment,” said Bramson of the 1966-67 period that the film encompasses. “We were aware of the Hendrix’s estate’s reluctance to let a film use his songs. We never sought out Jimi’s hits and their iconography.”

When we first see Hendrix in the film, he is playing second guitar with Curtis Knight in New York’s noted club, the Café´ Wha?. “We chose a musical design as an interpretation of Jimi’s development,” Bramson explained. “That zeitgeist that informed, inspired, and propelled him. The creative challenge was staggering, underscored with that incessant responsibility to get it right.”

LR-2-aib_2_00920In undertaking a project which reflected a seminal point in a legendary musician’s life, Bramson knew he would need equally skilled musicians to perform the tracks. “I associated immediately upon reading the script on Waddy Wachtel, a genius guitarist and one of my absolute favorites,” said Bramson. “He can sublimate his ego and personal style and be absolutely malleable. Plus, he has the patience to sit knee to knee with me for months finding our groove. I am an amateur musicologist to every one of our sessions. My code word throughout was to capture an interpretation of Jimi’s influences and to his style.”

For six months, Bramson and Wachtel worked on the tracks which would be featured in Jimi. “Traditionally composition for film takes place after the fact. The filmmaker will pull in the composer into his editing room and show him reels and give him an idea of the overall landscape,” Bramson described, noting that this project required music to be created prior to filming took place. “With this and [considering] John’s screenplay, we are starting with Jimi playing in the back row behind Curtis Knight as a second lead guitarist in that group. We tried to match his development as a guitarist as he developed his signature sound — the fluidity of his playing that was iconic.”

LR-3-aib_9_08159Surely, the magnitude of a Hendrix project weighed heavily on Bramson’s mind as he made his way through the music-making process, with one scene rendering itself especially impacting: a recreation of Hendrix first sitting in with the English supergroup Cream onstage in London in 1966. “Imagine the responsibility,” he confessed, “with trying to capture that prologue piece of Cream that would personify the assemblage of talent. I was able to see Jimi in the Forum and the Bowl when I was 14-15. I have had a professional rapport with Clapton. Waddy and I put together an amazing trio: Waddy on all acoustic and electric guitar. Leland Sklar is my favorite bassist – an absolute Hall-of-Fame player. Drummer Kenny Aronoff has that aggressive style and physicality that embody Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker – he was the amazing drummer behind John Cougar’s early singles, a great session player and performer.”

In the film, Hendrix is shown talking his way into the onstage jam with Cream which then becomes a seminal moment in his London tenure. “Jimi had that tenacity to get into [his manager, Chas Chandler’s] ear and ask him to go and beg of Eric to allow him to go up and jam,” Bramson related. “In coming on to the stage, those little grace notes that we went for in every page, scene and moment help maintain the credibility throughout the film. When Jimi goes to plug in, he plugs into Eric’s amplifier from the get go — it gave you that vibe.”

Considering a project of this intense a musical magnitude, Bramson’s critical decisions on the film ultimately became ones of simplicity. “The thing that just took me away from the very beginning when I first read John’s script 20 pages [was] the absolute sublime power,” he said. “With this film, I can only hope that we matched and complemented the poetry of John’s setting and environment and screenplay that first penetrated my heart. It’s a small $5 million independently distributed film, but the heart of it and the work in it is so sincere.”

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