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