Jun 26 2023
Interview by Steven C. Pesant.
FROM THE VAULT. This interview was originally conducted in the Fall of 1997 leading up to the release of the album South Saturn Delta which bears the name of the title track. It was first published in the November/December 1997 (Issue 5) issue of Experience Hendrix: The Official Jimi Hendrix Magazine.
Jimi Hendrix was a technical wizard. His explosive imagination and unabashed hunger to experiment with the flexible sounds of music undeniably aided his success. While Jimi’s history with blues is well documented, his admiration of the experimental sounds of jazz has yet to be fully understood.
Hendrix loved the blues and the blues loved Jimi, but Jimi managed to take his own unique style of blues to uncharted territories. The success of his musical meandering provided the courage and thirst to take his sound to where he desired.
The impressionistic clutch of jazz also helped influence Hendrix’s creative side. “I like very different jazz,” he said in an interview with West One magazine in February 1967. “Most of it is blowing blues and that’s why I like free-form jazz. The groovy stuff instead of the old-time hits.” The reassuring nature of jazz would inspire Hendrix’s amazing creativity and provide the path to his unclouded imagination that would result in the formation of brilliant songs such as “Rainy Day, Dream Away” and “South Saturn Delta.”
Jazz is a marriage of the eclectic style of music and thought. Ornette Coleman’s 1958 release Something Else! featured the inspiring words; “The creation of music is just as natural as the air we breathe. I believe the music is a really free thing and any way you can enjoy it, you should.”
Hendrix embraced this natural musical force with an early demo of “South Saturn Delta” on October 14, 1967 at Olympic Studios during sessions for the Axis: Bold As Love album. During these sessions, The Experience tried to capture the essence of the rhythmic patterns that Jimi desired, only to have the project shelved.
Thankfully, work on the song was revived when The Experience returned to New York’s Record Plant Studios on May 2, 1968. While the session was primarily focused on “Three Little Bears,” the session eventually fell apart, with Noel Redding angrily departing from the session, leaving Mitch Mitchell and Hendrix together to further progress. During one take, Hendrix didn’t come to a conclusion on “Three Little Bears” and elected to continue playing and eventually evolved into a free-form jazz session where the basic rhythmic pattern that later became “South Saturn Delta” was developed.
From the basis of this newly cut solo track, Hendrix would guide drummer, Mitch Mitchell and bassist, Noel Redding on a few cuts during the recording session for “Three Little Bears.”
With a basic track in hand, Hendrix began looking for that punch that would allow the song to capture the astral dominance of his imagination. During one of his stops at the Record Plant, Hendrix’s attention was captured from one of the studios. Unannounced, he stopped in one of the studios and met Arranger, Larry Fallon. Fallon recalls, “I was recording at the Record Plant doing a session with horns and things and he came by and said, ‘What the hell was that?,’ Jimi liked what he heard, so he sat down and watched the whole session, and he goes, ‘I wanna do a session with you. Can we do something?’ So I’m like, ‘sure, I’d love to work with you Jimi.’
The results of this unique pairing would basically be hidden from the public after it’s recording on June 14, 1968 at the Record Plant. Apart from a portion of the recordings made available on the short-printed Live and Unreleased: The Radio Show and Lifelines: The Jimi Hendrix Story, the track remained virtually unknown, until the 1997 release of South Saturn Delta.
With Hendrix and Mitchell having formed a master recording, Larry Fallon joined the duo in the studio accompanied by four top-rated New York session musicians – whose names unfortunately were not documented. Together, sitting in a circle with Hendrix on bass guitar, the five musicians including two saxophone, one trumpet and one trombone player were recorded live.
An additional take with Hendrix performing the lead overdubs alongside the horns, saw Jimi perform with a Les Paul Special fed through a Fender amplifier while percussionist Larry Faucette added conga parts to the tape as well. Although no final master was created during these sessions, “South Saturn Delta” highlights some of Jimi’s early progress in merging jazz, blues, rock and R&B into a cohesive package.
The following interview with acclaimed Arranger, Producer, Composer and Musical Director Larry Fallon was conducted in 1998 and highlights his personal experience with Hendrix, in the studio and in the height of one of his creative explosions.
Experience Hendrix: Looking back thirty years, how did you approach this piece of music in the studio and what were the intentions?
Larry Fallon: Well, I thought it was quite interesting because I don’t think I had heard the piece since it was recorded in 1968. I never got a copy of that piece, so I hadn’t heard it in all these years. We did an interview down at Electric Lady Studios when they were filming his documentary and that’s the first time that I had heard it.
It all came back to me immediately because it was so experimental with Jimi and myself. It was a very interesting track. We really had a lot of fun doing that. He wanted to experiment with something, and then we were going to do a whole album in that particular kind of concept. Of course, the record companies came in and said that the album wouldn’t be commercial enough and so forth, you know, that’s how it goes. I understood it. That’s what business is about. So, they just put the track aside. I was very happy with that track, it sounded real good, very inventive.
“What the hell was that? I wanna do a session with you, can we do something?”
EH: Not only inventive but uniquely different from everything he had done up to that point in his career. How did the session come together?
LF: It’s nothing like anything he’s done at all. I was recording at the Record Plant. I was doing a session with horns and things, and he came by and said, “What the hell was that?” Jimi liked what he heard, so he sat down and watched the whole session, and he goes, “I wanna do a session with you, can we do something?” So I’m like, “sure, I’d love to work with you Jimi.” So we sat down, we figured look you give me your most intricate piece of music, I said, that would be a great start. So he goes out and does this particular music and I go, “that’s the thing I want to work on, that thing.” Cause it intrigued me because of the way it was stretching melodically, rhythmically and it was very challenging. So, I went ahead and wrote Jimi Hendrix into the horns, just like Jimi Hendrix. So, I put my expertise into his. He was more than pleased with it he loved it. But he just couldn’t get it to the commercial line to take it any further than that, unfortunately.
EH: What was the atmosphere like in the Record Plant during the recording session?
LF: The atmosphere was very high voltage. As you know, Jimi was very high voltage in all of his music and every place Jimi went, so did the energy go. The Record Plant at that particular time was high profile, it was ‘the’ studio to go to. And there was lots of music happening. It was really good, just good years for music.
EH: Were there studio spectators or supporters in the studio during the session?
LF: Not really, it was out of his realm of music, this particular thing. There weren’t too many hangers on to this particular situation. It was just me and Jimi. We talked about the music, he liked what he heard, and we continued. I dealt a lot with Michael Jeffery [Jimi’s manager], we tried to get a whole album going down that way with all the horns and things and really stretching and showing a different part of Jimi. Because Jimi always had that inventive kind of music, and it’s the kind of music that you just don’t write the same or play the same. You keep inventing it and experimenting and doing different things, fresher to our ears. And that’s kind of where my head is musically, I always like to do fresh original things that allow you to stretch out as far as you can possibly go. And it would have been very challenging to do a whole album in that way, but like I said, it never happened.
EH: With a new album of material a possibility — is this the root of the stories that include Gil Evans, Al Brown or Miles Davis and the proposed jazz albums?
LF: My project was completely separate. Actually being a jazz musician, I would have loved to take Jimi in that particular direction. You see, because no one at that particular time was doing it, and to my knowledge no one is doing that today either. But, it would have been very interesting because Jimi had the tools and the kind of head musically to go in that direction. Honestly and creatively, not too many people out there can say that they can do that. Like I said it was very challenging for me to want to work with Jimi. It was never good enough, he always wanted to stretch out and go further, do this. And I said you’ve got the right guy cause that’s exactly how I feel, so let’s do it. Let’s make it better than anything else. Let’s make it the best we can possibly make it up to our own musical expectations. It really was a good relationship.
EH: What happened after the session? Did you get to work with Jimi again afterwards?
LF: Not really. You know, he was always touring and I was always at the Record Plant recording. So, when he finished his project he left, and then he got his own Electric Lady Studios. So, when the track was put on the shelf, obviously no one ever thought that there was anything commercial. But, I always knew artistically, it was quite an interesting track, and so did Jimi, but it was out of our hands and he went the way he was going.
EH: Listening to the new unreleased alternate take from the album South Saturn Delta, explain the sonic horn attacks that surround Jimi’s guitar?
“There was a good marriage with Jimi’s music… It sounds like one piece of music. If you listen to it, as you heard it, you can hear that one particular [attack], it sounds like it was planned that way, and it was.”
LF: Yeah attack! I’ll tell you what was behind all of that. There was a good marriage with Jimi’s music. To go in and do a horn line just as if you’re going to do an Otis Redding horn line at the time, which was the kind of thing at the time, you don’t do that. It wasn’t Jimi music.
Jimi’s music was Jimi’s music and as an arranger, any kind of good arranger would have to write for the artist that you are writing for. In context of what he’s all about. So it becomes a happy marriage and it doesn’t sound like something is added, it doesn’t sound like this guy is doing his trip and he’s doing his. It sounds like one piece of music. If you listen to it, as you heard it, you can hear that one particular [attack], it sounds like it was planned that way, and it was. You see.
EH: The horns are such a beautiful accompaniment within the song itself…
LF: Yes, there was the horns, I really wanted to… I was kind of disappointed that we didn’t get to do another ten or eleven tracks. Because we were just warming up with that track and that’s the direction we were going to take the whole album.
EH: How would “South Saturn Delta’s” style compare to the other musical sounds at that time?
LF: Honestly… in my opinion, nothing is like it around at all. I mean, this kind of music was just not happening, not at all. I mean, I’ve been a jazz musician since I was seventeen years old, but I’ve done many pop records, many, many albums [Ed., Fallon has more than 250 album credits to his name]. And, my first love is jazz, and as you know, jazz is always creative. And you’re constantly playing something different every time you play it and you’re always inventing. During that time period, everyone was in one kind of groove, everyone was afraid of experimenting with something new. And Jimi, why I liked working with Jimi so much, was because he wasn’t afraid to experiment. You know, I thought it was just a great marriage because he thought about music like I did. I wasn’t afraid of doing anything musically. Only if we though the music was correct, by the way we thought it should be and had enough of a musical background to know that if it wasn’t correct that we’d be the first ones to say that it wasn’t happening. But it was happening.
EH: Looking at the music, as Jimi gained control of his own sound with Electric Lady Studios, do you think far out jazz was where Jimi would turn to, had he had the opportunity and time to do so?
LF: I really believe he would have because that’s the only form of music where you can really experiment and express yourself to any kind of degree, you see. And I think he definitely would have done that because he had the kind of musical head. You know his music you could hear how inventive he was. Jimi Hendrix was the guitar player – he was the guy. I mean there is nobody else you can really say that about, that was as inventive with that kind of music as he was.
“I think a lot of people would consider [Jimi] a blues-jazz, I tell you he was jazz oriented, because of his inventiveness and not afraid of taking chances and experimenting with his music.”
EH: Stylistically, how would you classify Jimi Hendrix?
LF: I would describe Jimi as a very hip blues guitar player on the fringes of jazz playing. He knew jazz, he knew the players, he knew everybody, he knew all the people. There was great communication on kinds of music and kinds of players that were around at that time, until he got his experience with us, and my experience with him.
That’s how I feel. I think a lot of people would consider him a blues-jazz, I tell you he was jazz oriented, because of his inventiveness and not afraid of taking chances and experimenting with his music. He wouldn’t settle. He wouldn’t go out and play a song like this or … he wasn’t a follower, he was a leader and that’s why it was a treat to play with Jimi.
EH: With all of your experience, was this session a stereotypical recording session?
LF: Absolutely not! Absolutely not. I wouldn’t call that particular session the same types that were happening. That’s not a stereotypical session just because of the way that kind of music was done and approached. In that period in 1968, all the British groups were hot, they were all great. But, no one really took the chances that Jimi did. That track really stretched-out quite a bit, it wasn’t the ordinary Top 40 kind of track at that time. I wouldn’t call it the norm in 1968, I really wouldn’t. I think it was far ahead of what was happening musically.
EH: The session itself obviously worked, what about the ambiance of the studio, was it perfect rhythmically and emotionally?
LF: Yes, it worked very well. The session went very smoothly. When I wrote what I wrote for Jimi; I had a tape of what he was playing, when I wrote it I experienced exactly what was coming down. ‘Here you do your shit and I’ll do mine, here it is. I’m just going to be like this. The harder you push the harder I’m going to push you. So, if you want to lay back and get sensitive and do a passionate thing, I’m with you. If you want to dig in, then I’m with you. So, you know, this is the kind of artist that I can do this with. I mean I could honestly do that with him only because of his jazz background. He understood about improvisation and all that stuff and how to corral that kind of energy.
EH: Looking at Jimi’s jazz background, what type of jazz would you say Jimi was playing?
LF: Ohhh, I don’t know how to categorize Jimi. Jimi is like in a class of his own. He’s not a mainstream jazz, he wasn’t a commercial jazz artist, he wasn’t a rock’n’roll jazz artist, he was a blues… I would say maybe, a very hip blues-jazz artist, in that kind of artist. That’s where his heart was and his roots were really there. I guess he maybe never really had the chance to do the things that he really wanted to do in that particular world of music. And, he was kinda quite excited about what we did, and so was I. I thought we had a situation happening where, I think Michael, or something, the record company doesn’t think its’ commercial enough for an album in this direction. It was a real disappointment, but that’s business.
“Jimi is like in a class of his own. He’s not a mainstream jazz, he wasn’t a commercial jazz artist, he wasn’t a rock’n’roll jazz artist, he was a blues… I would say maybe, a very hip blues-jazz artist, in that kind of artist. That’s where his heart was and his roots were really there.”
EH: Did you do any other work in the studio on that evening?
LF: Oh, that’s the only track we did, it was like an experimental thing. To see what the reaction was going to be with the company and to see how it would turn out, you know. When it was done right, we knew we were going in the right direction. Because even if I told Jimi that this was what was going to happen in the song, he still couldn’t hear it until he heard it. I can mention to him how it was going to be, but until you really hear what it is, you don’t really know what it sounds like, but he was very happy, and I felt really good about that. You know, making someone like Jimi feel happy was a real compliment.
EH: Do you remember whom the four horn players you arranged were?
LF: You know, I don’t have the slightest idea. At this point, I don’t really know. I hadn’t heard that track since 1968 until about maybe a year ago, first time I heard it when I was first given a copy. Which was very upsetting because I really wanted to hear it.
During his career, Larry Fallon received more than 250 album credits to his name including work alongside The Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter,” Van Morrison “Astral Weeks,” Jimmy Cliff “Wonderful World,” Traffic “Shanghai Noodle Factory,” and many others. Sadly, Larry passed away on June 2, 2005 at the age of 68. His work will forever be remembered thanks to the recordings captured on June 14, 1968 that resulted in the creation of “South Saturn Delta.”
“South Saturn Delta” is the title track on the 15-song collection South Saturn Delta released in 1997. Stream the album now from your favorite music service.