Hendrix ‘production’ Kiss the Sky to perform at Jazz Cafe in Plains Township
For New York musician Jimy Bleu, a lifelong dedication to the music of Jimi Hendrix began when he was a school-age music student.
Now the frontman of critically-acclaimed Hendrix project Kiss The Sky brings the music of the iconic ’60s songwriter and guitarist to audiences all over the country, and he’ll lead the ensemble during a Nov. 4 performance at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains Township.
The group has earned a reputation for delivering accurate representations of the music and style that was indicative of Hendrix in the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsys with a nod to the guitarist’s pre-solo career as an instrumentalist on the Chitlin’ Circuit with established acts like the Isley Brothers and Wilson Pickett.
While Kiss The Sky’s all-out homage to Hendrix is something that has developed over the last year, Bleu’s fascination with the sonic pioneer spans across a 48-year career playing Hendrix’s music and reaches back to his student days at the then-High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan.
“Jimi used to stop by Performing Arts and sit on the steps outside, because Buddy Miles (of Band of Gypsys) was dating a woman whose sister went to Performing Arts.”
Among his classmates, Bleu had a few candid encounters with Hendrix and even joined the official Jimi Hendrix Fan Club to get closer to a girl he was attracted to.
“We would go to all of his East Coast (gigs),” Bleu said. “He would take care of his fan club.”
But it was an experience meeting a friend’s uncle, who was a cameraman, that sold Bleu on Hendrix’s music.
“He took us into his editing room and showed us raw footage of the Monterey Pop Festival,” Bleu said. “I wanted to see Otis Redding, because I was a singer. He went to Hendrix, and when I saw that I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.’”
And he has been. Bleu has played Hendrix’s catalogue for audiences in multiple decades and has toured periodically with Billy Cox, who played bass in Band of Gypsys.
Then, last year, Bleu got the opportunity to take his performance to another level when Kiss The Sky founder and producer Mike Gotch reached out to him in hope that he had found the right frontman for the project.
“Nothing this meticulous has ever been done on Jimi Hendrix,” Bleu said. “Nobody cared enough to make a detailed presentation of what this guy was all about, and here we have the most important figure to come out of the psychedelic ’60s era.”
Bleu said with the “dream team” at Kiss The Sky, he now has all of the “bells and whistles” to make the presentation as authentic as possible. Along with the musicianship, costumes and equipment necessary to put on a Hendrix show, the production also utilizes video footage as it changes from scene to scene and era to era.
The act has been well reviewed by Rolling Stone Concert Review and earned the title of World’s Greatest Tribute Band to Jimi Hendrix on the AXS Network, although Bleu disagrees with the label while he appreciates the honor.
“This is not a tribute band,” Bleu said. “This is a theater presentation, like you would put on in a Broadway production.”
Now, after years of studying Hendrix, learning his guitar licks, meeting his former colleagues and even hosting a radio show that welcomed Hendrix historians and those close to the musician to share their stories, Bleu is confident he’s putting forth the best possible representation of the artist.
“Jimi Hendrix was an American guru,” Bleu said. “People latched on to him for spiritual reasons and, later in his career, for political reasons. When I went to see Jimi, I saw Latinos, blacks, whites and lots of different age ranges. The only other artist we can compare that to is Bob Marley.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO
What: Kiss The Sky — The Jimi Hendrix Re-experience
Where: River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 N. River St., Plains Township
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Additional information: Tickets cost $13 in advance and $15 the evening of the show and are available in advance at bit.ly/2lqE1X3 and at the door the evening of the show. For more information, call 570-822-2992.