Watch Steve Vai and Eric Johnson Play "Little Wing"
Pretty much everyone—including living guitar gods Eric Clapton, Zakk Wylde, Buddy Guy, Joe Satriani and beyond—has covered the music of Jimi Hendrix at one point or another, sometimes live, sometimes in the studio.
Case in point: this live 2015 performance of “Little Wing” by Steve Vai and Eric Johnson.
The clip was filmed and posted by a YouTube user named AlanGuitar at Vai Academy 2015, which took place last August at the Arrabelle at Vail Square in Vail, Colorado.
AlanGuitar had this to say via his comments on YouTube:
“This was an informal jam in a hotel meeting room in front of a bunch of guitar players. The audio is recorded on an iPhone, and I was standing right in front of Steve’s 4×12 cabinets, so that’s why there’s so much Steve in the mix. I’m sure the mix coming out of the mains was a lot better than what I managed to capture here.
“To see Steve and Eric on stage together jamming on a song we all loved was a wonderful experience.”
It’s true; the mix mostly favors Vai. In fact, at one point, Vai is clearly asking the sound crew to raise Johnson’s amp in the monitors.
Covered by artists like Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Sting, “Little Wing” is one of Hendrix’s most beautiful and enduring compositions. It’s easy to see why. The original is seductively warm, poignant and light as a feather.
“One of my favorite touches on that track is the glockenspiel part, which was played by Jimi,” said engineer Eddie Kramer. “Part of the beauty of recording at Olympic Studios in London was using instruments that had been left from previous sessions. The glockenspiel was just laying around, so Jimi used it.”
Hendrix’s rich and watery guitar solo was, says Kramer, in part the product of a secret weapon. “One of the engineers had built this miniature Leslie,” Kramer said. “It was like it was built out of an Erector set and had a small 8-inch speaker that rotated. Believe it or not, the guitar solo was fed through this tiny thing, and that’s the lovely effect you hear on the lead.”