There are few things more flattering as a guitarist than Jimi Hendrix declaring an interest in you. For Stephen Stills, receiving adulation from the bonafide guitar legend was a regular occurrence and it nearly went even further than that.
The duo played together on Stephen Stills self-titled debut in 1970 shortly before Hendrix sadly passed away, but there was a time when the collaboration was set to be more solid than that, as Hendrix once considered hiring him to play bass in his Experience ensemble.
As Stills told Classic Rock: “I didn’t realise they were really discussing it seriously until I read Mitch Mitchell’s book. I was quite flattered. But they did call me. I was in Hawaii with a broken hand, so I couldn’t go.”
Stills went on to declare, “I’d have done it in a heartbeat, as long as it paid. But there were an awful lot of people that had an awful lot invested in Crosby, Stills & Nash.”
While that dream might have been one that fate ensured eluded him, he was nonetheless lucky enough to play with the guitar god and, likewise, Hendrix was lucky enough to play with Stills.
In 1968, the pair got together for a jam session, that has legendary but little-known results. Then origins of the sessions are shrouded in a fair share of mystery, with the bootleg proving to be a rarity in both artists discography.
The recordings comprise an unofficial release dubbed Stills Basement. It was recorded on May 21st, 1968, but it is not even known who plays on the track barring Hendrix and Stills. Seeing as though the two stars were joined in a jam on March 13th of the same year by Ken Pine (12-string), Paul Caruso (harmonica), and Jimmy Mayes (drums), it is possible that it features the same team but that is purely speculation. Needless to say, we’ve reached out where we can, but at this stage, it is difficult to know whether it is even possible to shine a light in this particular studio session so to speak.
What is certain, however, is the rattling blues-rock perfection that was produced in that room. The free-flowing jam is the epitome of musicians at the peak of their powers relishing in the joy of their own creation. They rattle through a setlist known only as San Francisco Bay Jam (Parts 1-5), Mellow Jam #1, Cool Jazz Jam, Middle East Blues Jam and Mellow Jam #2.
While the jam brings with it the inevitable tinge of ‘what could’ve been’, it also serves up an onslaught of brilliance that makes you forget the former point rather quickly and rattle in the groove.