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Scott Henderson, Steve Smith, Victor Wooten: Vital Tech Tones

Christopher Hoard By

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Perhaps a more spontaneous super-trio gathering of the post-70s fusion generation, Vital Tech Tones finds guitarist Scott Henderson chasing the voodoo down with mercurial bassist Victor Wooten (known for his scintillating slap-style as a member of Bela Fleck's Flecktones), and veteran jazz / stadium rocker, Steve Smith. The trio has assembled a wide ranging, often blues-based arrangement of group compositions / jams, and it proves an engaging showcase for Henderson's extreme talent, both in terms of solos and rhythm work. Drummer Steve Smith ably anchors Wooten's miraculous assortment of rumbling, popping, pyrotechnic baselines, most evident in tunes like "Snake Soda."

Tribal Tech fans will appreciate a new, bluesy version of "Dr. Hee," and the track "Crash Course" will clearly appeal to Allan Holdsworth devotees, as it recalls Holdsworth's IOU-era guitar trio arrangements. Perhaps most delightful is the angular interpretation of Coltrane's "Giant Steps," which is a worthy if slightly reckless update of that classic standard. Henderson is one of the few original electric guitar soloists capable of weaving an intelligent flurry of 128th notes with compelling emotional intensity and inventiveness, possessing ideas to match to his level of phrasing and technique. Wooten and Smith are comparable on their instruments, which means this trio typically hits its stride with warp-speed abandon.

Vital Tech Tones encompasses playing and extended soloing which straddles between the brilliant and the boisterous. While for some, the high-octane musical rapport here will stray into the territory of enlightened musical indulgence, Henderdson undoubtedly commands one of the premier guitar trios of recent memory. But that's just scratching the surface, as both Wooten and Smith's jazz and rock vocabulary demonstrate that no matter what the musical context, they're exceptionally creative and technically at a level few of their contemporaries can match.


Title: Vital Tech Tones | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Tone Center

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