About Vital Tech Tones
Guitarist Scott Henderson moved from his native South Florida to Los Angeles in 1980, and formed the group Tribal Tech in the mid-'80s with bassist Gary Willis. Their jazz fusion output grew increasingly harder-edged, especially with the additions of keyboardist Scott Kinsey and drummer Kirk Covington in the early '90s, but Henderson still had a restless need to experiment. Solo blues CDs Dog Party (1994) and Tore Down House (1997) satisfied his fascination with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King; all-improvisational Tribal Tech discs Thick (1999) and Rocket Science (2000) showed that this supremely talented band didn't need to write in order to record. But Henderson still wanted to blend his love for improvisation with rock influences Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck into a format outside of Tribal Tech, so he formed a trio in 1998 called Vital Tech Tones. Also featuring Steve Smith (former drummer for rock band Journey and leader of the group Vital Information) and Victor Wooten (bassist for Bela Fleck & the Flecktones) Vital Tech Tones took their name by using a portion of each of the three principals' primary acts.
The trio recorded their self-titled debut CD in only ten days at Smith's Neverland Studio in 1998, and the largely improvised release featured previously unearthed facets of all three musicians. Smith's drum sound is huge and his playing Tony Williams-like, especially on the opening track, "Crash Course"; Henderson reworks his Allan Holdsworth influences into the title track from Tribal Tech's second album, "Dr. Hee"; and Wooten displays his incredible arsenal on "Two for One" and John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Amid the Tribal Tech improv albums; Vital Information's 2000 release, Live Around the World; and the Flecktones' studio CD, Outbound, Vital Tech Tones managed a follow-up in 2000 called VTT2. Taking slightly more time (15 days) and eschewing Smith's home studio in favor of the Tommy Tedesco Studio in Los Angeles, the trio sounded more at ease, democratic, and more like a band instead of a collection of individual talents.
A more composed CD, VTT2, shows Smith raising the bar on tracks like "The Litigants" and "Drums Stop, No Good," and Wooten flailing on "Catch Me if You Can" and doing his patented bass slap/vocal rap on the opening, "VTT." An inspired Henderson responds with a fuselage of new tones and fiery solos, especially on lengthy tracks like "SubZero" and the closing track, "Chakmool-Ti." Perhaps a research and development unit for this trio's primary groups, Vital Tech Tones is particularly a showcase for Henderson's blend of Jimi Hendrix tones and Allan Holdsworth effects. The three musicians involved are all at or near the apex of their respective instruments' greatest musical athletes, making for some dizzying, Olympian exchanges. Picture Hendrix's Band of Gypsys trio 30 years after, and one has a close approximation of Vital Tech Tones. ~ Bill Meredith, Rovi