Another Jimi Hendrix thang from Quora Digest, one part of which I especially dig (in bold, natch).
Was Jimi Hendrix a significantly better guitarist than his contemporaries?
Yes, with some very minor reservations which I’ll get to in a minute.
Hendrix raised the bar and changed the game, when it came to electric guitar. Jazz musicians like to talk about a musician’s ‘conception’, meaning that musician’s general approach to the instrument, and to making music. Another musician might find it difficult to play with someone whose conception they couldn’t understand. (Ornette Coleman sometimes had this problem, until he attracted musicians like Ed Blackwell, Don Cherry and Charlie Haden, who grasped his conception very well.)
The recorded evidence shows that, in terms of his conception—his understanding of what the electric guitar was good for, and could be made to do—Hendrix was simply head and shoulders above his peers. He effortlessly incorporated controlled noise and feedback into his playing, when his peers were tentatively mucking about with them. He was a superb rhythm player: most of the other guitar heroes of his generation were at best workmanlike rhythm players, and not even the best rhythm players of the time (Townshend, Page) could match the fury and precision of Hendrix’s part on ‘Killing Floor’—there’s a reason why he chose that song to introduce himself to American audiences at the Monterey festival. His leads were almost endlessly inventive and expressive: listen to what he can do with just one chord in ‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)’. His expressivity on guitar was supreme. Other guitarists, like Clapton, took a plank of wood and an amp the size of a fridge, and in the words of Philip Norman, made it sound like some kind of strange but haunting wind instrument, but Hendrix made it sound like a whole orchestra, playing in a hurricane.
With all respect to other answers to this question, and their authors, many of whom are people whose other answers I have enjoyed and admired, I have to laugh when I see Hendrix being considered as if he belonged in the same company as players like Clapton, Mike Bloomfield or even Jeff Beck. They belong in each other’s company; they do not belong in his.
VERY well said, sir. I chose not to put that last line in boldface as well, but it was a near-run thing, and a difficult decision indeed.