Saturday, May 13, 2017

Scott Henderson, Steve Smith & Victor Wooten - 1998 "Vital Tech Tones"

The Vital Tech Tones were an American fusion supergroup formed in the mid-1990s composed of Vital Information drummer Steve Smith, Tribal Tech guitarist Scott Henderson, and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones bassist Victor Wooten. The group released two albums, both with Shrapnel Label Group's Tone Center Records before breaking up due to time constraints (the band was a side project for all three members). There is still some talk of a future reunion, but no official announcement has been made.
The band never played live, although Smith has performed with Henderson and Wooten on separate occasions.
The band's music is almost entirely instrumental, focused on virtuosic, free flowing soloing on top of a complex, solid groove. It is considered to be more on the rock end of the fusion spectrum.

Calling this group a power trio would not be fair, as it would be too much of an understatement. Guitarist Scott Henderson, bassist Victor Wooten, and drummer Steve Smith are three of the most inventive jazz-rock players who have pushed the style into uncharted waters during the late '80s and throughout the '90s. The clever name Vital Tech Tones infers each members primary bands: Smith's Vital Information, Henderson's Tribal Tech, and Wooten's Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. The combined talent level of the band is astounding and the music created here is a reflection of not only their technical abilities, but also their compositional talents. The program maintains a jazz-rock fusion feel, but there is enough variety in the compositions that raise this above just another blowing session. That being stated, the cover of "Giant Steps" has to be heard to be believed, as does the Jimi Hendrix-influenced "Lie Detector." A very rewarding session that proves that jazz-rock fusion can still be played with conviction, honesty, and integrity.

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.

"Well, what have we here then? Scott Henderson, Steve Smith and Victor Wooten - I think I know what to expect". WRONG! Put all your preconceptions to one side, and just enjoy. This album is going to be a little bit of a surprise.

You know how "fusion" music can sometimes become a bit predictable or even stale - bands simply rehashing what's been done before, only not as well. Then suddenly a band appears that literally EXPLODES onto the scene, to shake things up. Well, Vital Tech Tones is such a band.

I'm sure most fusion lovers are already aware of the aforementioned musicians' credentials, so they need no more introductions. What WILL surprise, and hopefully delight, such fusion enthusiasts, is what they create on this album. In my opinion, it comes across as a reaction against the staleness inherent in "some" fusion music. But, because I don't want to give too much away in my review, which would spoil the impact this band has on first hearing, I'll attempt to make vague comparisons instead. Thus, imagine, if you will, Scott with a touch of Jimi Hendrix in his playing, and if Steve added some of John Bonham's sheer power to his already awesome technique, then finally, if all the great bass players you'd ever heard gave a bit of themselves to add to Victor's playing - you'd be getting close to the sound of this phenomenally gifted trio, in this, their debut album.

The playing throughout is of course stunning. The compositions are varied in style - sometimes jazzy, heavy, complex, and funky - but always entertaining. It actually sounds like they were really enjoying themselves while making such a wonderful album. In fact, the amazing interplay within the band suggests to me that they were recording it live, thus capturing those rare moments of genius when they were all "in the zone". This is what jazz is supposed to be about anyway "reaching for that moment".

It's a gem of a performance. If you're looking for "jazz with attitude", this is the album for you - otherwise, look elsewhere. For the sheer sublime playing alone, this VTT album is worth buying. Take a risk - I promise you won't be disappointed!


Track listing:

1     Crash Course     7:00
2     Snake Soda     5:35
3     Dr. Hee     8:56
4     Everglades     9:41
5     Two For One     5:21
6     King Twang     4:10
7     The Captors     7:52
8     Giant Steps     5:45
9     Lie Detector     5:49

Personnel:

    Scott Henderson  - Guitar
    Victor Wooten - Bass
    Steve Smith - Drums 

5 comments:

  1. http://www11.zippyshare.com/v/pGzIgQ1V/file.html
    http://www11.zippyshare.com/v/192mD5mf/file.html
    http://www11.zippyshare.com/v/9PHsk6wE/file.html

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  2. can you post the other?...
    BIG THX!...

    ReplyDelete
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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. The other one is posted:
      http://jazz-rock-fusion-guitar.blogspot.com/2015/07/vital-tech-tones-2000-vtt2.html

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