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Famous Drummer – Mitch Mitchell

Mitch Mitchell, born on July 9, 1947 in England and died November 12, 2008, was the famed jazz-influenced drummer of the rock band The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Mitchell started in show business as a child actor, and in terms of his music, he was largely self-taught, though he received some valuable instruction when he worked in Jim Marshalls music shop in London. He used to be part of Johnny Harris and the Shades, The Pretty Things, The Riot Squad, and Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, before joining Jimi Hendrix in 1966. He is best known for his admirable work on Manic Depression, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), Fire, and Third Stone from the Sun. With the jazz chops and explosive drumming style he brought to the band, Mitchell proved to be one of Hendrixs most valuable musical partners. From 1966 to mid-1969, he played with Hendrixs Experience trio. He also backed Hendrix in his remarkable Woodstock performance in 1969.

The musical influences of Mitchell included the works of Elvin Jones, Max Roach, and Joe Morello. Mitchell pioneered a lead style of drumming, characterized by interplay with lead instruments such as guitar or keyboards. His drumming is akin to Elvin Jones explosive style, but what distinguished him from other jazz drummers of his time was his responsiveness whenever he played with Hendrix; he always responded to Hendrixs variations, be it a studio or live performance. Together, Hendrixs avant-garde guitar work and songwriting and Mitchells pioneering drumming style made for a great combination.

Mitchell also performed in the English group The Dirty Mac in December 1968, with vocalist and rhythm guitarist John Lennon, lead guitarist Eric Clapton, and bassist Keith Richards. The band was put together by Lennon for The Rolling Stones ill-fated TV special, The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. The group did a cover of the Beatles track Yer Blues and backed up on Yoko Onos Whole Lotta Yoko.

Mitchell worked with the Jack Bruce and Friends band in late 1969 and early 1970, around the time when Hendrix was working with the live album Band of Gyspsys. Other members in the band then were bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce, keyboardist Mike Mandel, and jazz-fusion guitarist Larry Coryell. In this group, Bruce was the one with the rhythmic drive, while Mitchell was simply allowed to fill and explode, but in a controlled way. The band could have gone on, had Jack Bruce not decided to join Tony Williams Lifetime.

With Jimi Hendrixs death in September 1970, Mitchell took to completing production works on unfinished Hendrix recordings, leading to the release of 1971s The Cry of Love and Rainbow Bridge, posthumously. 1972 saw Mitchell form the act Ramatam, along with female lead guitarist April Lawton and vocalist Mike Pinera. The group released a self-titled debut album in 1972. Mitchell and Pinera departed from the band before the release of its second and final album. In addition to these projects, Mitchell did collaborations in some concerts with Terry Reid, Jack Bruce, and Jeff Beck. He also auditioned for Paul McCartneys band Wings but was turned down.

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Up until the nineties, Mitchell continued to perform and record, and also participated in recordings, videos, and interviews which were Hendrix-related. He continued to work with Billy Cox, Buddy Miles, Jack Bruce, and Gary Serkin, all fellow Hendrix alumni.

Mitchell joined the 2008 Experience Hendrix Tour, which was a four-week, 18-city concert series in the US to celebrate the music and legacy of the late rock star. Five days after the tour, however, Mitchell was found dead in his hotel room in downtown Portland. Medical tests that followed revealed a death of natural causes. Mitchell died at age 61.

Drew Mers is a consultant to Empire Rehearsal Studios, which rents aspiring bands, musicians and drummers music rehearsal studios in Long Island City, Queens, New York – about 10 minutes from midtown Manhattan and consultant to City Closet Storage, one of the largest New York self storage companies.

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