Scott Henderson continues to deliver the guitar-shredder goods. Some might wonder whether the fusion god of Southern California has simplified his sound by going from the high-octane jazz universe of Tribal Tech to the stripped-down blues rock of his recent albums, Dog Party and Tore Down House (Mesa Blue Moon). But if anything, this new trio showcases Henderson at his most searching and complex, splitting the difference between his jazz and blues selves while sacrificing the sheer power of neither. Joined by drummer Kirk Covington and bassist John Humphrey, Henderson soared with his fire engine-red custom strat and his gargantuan — but never gratuitous — amplified sound. Tribal Tech burners like "Caribbean" and "Dr. Hee" were cleverly reworked to fit Henderson’s new blues-rock aesthetic. The more rocking material, much of it sung excellently by Covington, gave the leader a forum to play tasteful, tight accompaniment and whammy bar-intensive solos — laced with legato eighth-note outbursts that danced with post-bop angularity and precision. Few people can do what Henderson does, moving from the guitar fury of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan to the harmonic loftiness of Herbie Hancock within the space of a few bars. Oh, and he can change a string in 30 seconds, as he unfortunately had to demonstrate during the set.
Prior to showtime, when Covington stepped outside to make a cell phone call, one easily could have mistaken him for the bouncer. The man is big; his drum style is a powerful combination of Dave Weckl, John Bonham, and Hulk Hogan. He pushes a lot of air when he sings, in a style that recalls the Fabulous Thunderbirds but with a heavier dose of rock. Humphrey, in contrast, is lean and unassuming by the side of the stage with his old Fender-J bass. And Henderson, small and wiry with a butt-length dreadlock ponytail, completes the band’s somewhat surprising visual picture. They definitely didn’t look like New Yorkers, but they rocked New York in a big way.