In the late 1960s, 15-year-old Bob Wolfman and a friend were hanging out in his favorite neighborhood music shop, he says. Right around closing time, a customer wandered in. When Wolfman looked over, he was astonished to discover the newcomer was none other than Wolfman’s musical hero, Jimi Hendrix.
Wolfman struck up a conversation with his musical idol and then, he says, Hendrix took him and his friend up the street for a steak dinner, where the two continued to talk music and guitar customization. The two struck up a friendship, Wolfman says, and stayed in touch occasionally over the next few years before Hendrix’s death in 1970.
Now, more than 50 years later, Wolfman, who went on the become a professional guitarist and vocalist in his own right, is commemorating his friend and profound musical influence with the release of his latest album Tribute to a Friend. The album, produced by Boston-based, Grammy-nominated recording artist Jon Butcher, includes Wolfman’s interpretation of nine lesser-known Hendrix songs, as well as two original tunes inspired by Hendrix.
“Ultimately, we feel that Jimi would be proud, and I’m thrilled that I’ve accomplished one of my most important and major life goals,” Wolfman says.
“As a strong believer in the importance of the Hendrix legacy, I’m glad to be involved in creating Bob’s album, both as a producer and as a guitarist,” Butcher says. “I hope everyone who loves Jimi will check it out.”
Wolfman will be celebrating the album release with an all-ages party and performance at Breakaway in Danvers on March 27 at 5 p.m. Tickets start at $25. The band for the event will feature keyboardist Bruce Mattson, drummer Barry Lit and bassist Ron Belben.
Wolfman began his professional career with recording sessions in Manhattan when he was still a high school student. He later formed his 1980s jazz-fusion band, Elan Vital, and, in the 1990s, he launched the widely touring rock, jazz and blues group, the Bob Wolfman Band. The eclectic list of artists he has performed with includes Chick Corea, Grover Washington, Jr., Joe Beck, Robben Ford, Kenwood Dennard and Victor Bailey, as well as his mentor and friend, the late, great Larry Coryell who is one of the key founding fathers and pioneers of jazz/rock fusion.
The album includes the less frequently performed classics “Gypsy Eyes,” “Freedom,” “Angel,” “Castles Made of Sand,” “You Got Me Floating” and a swinging cover of “Come On Baby (Let The Good Times Roll),” a Sam Theard and Fleecie Moore tune from 1942. He also included two Jimi-inspired original songs, “Moon Candy” and “Parachute.
Wolfman says that interpreting Hendrix’s passion and sound while incorporating the various musical devices he used was a formidable challenge. “Duplicating Jimi’s nuance is more challenging than any other guitarist I’ve ever tried to emulate,” he says. “Nothing is as challenging as Jimi because it’s all about his incredible touch.”
Tickets for the release party and concert are available at the Breakaway website or by calling 978-774-7270.