Fairly soon after the Tribal Tech album called X (see review) guitarist Scott Henderson returns with another project album. It was just a matter of time when Scott Henderson would record an album with two other super stars of the virtuoso fusion genre. Next to his solo albums, bassist Jeff Berlin has played with many other well-known musicians, like Bill Bruford and John McLaughlin. The third member of this super trio is Dennis Chambers, an eminent drummer of the jazz-rock scene. He has also played with the most serious jazz-rock and fusion musicians like John Scofield and George Clinton of Parliament and Funkadelic fame.
On HBC, an album named after the first letter of the musician's last names, the trio is paying tribute to a number of classic fusion and jazz-rock tunes, but they also recorded a few songs of their own. Because of their musicality, it would have been strange if the songs on this album would have become exact copies of the originals. This isn't the case at all, so fusion lovers must be prepared to listen to an impressive rendition of a song like Actual Proof (Herbie Hancock), where the guitar lifts this keyboard-based song to another level. Other great examples are Mysterious Traveler (Weather Report) and Sightseeing (Wayne Shorter). The latter piece goes back to the roots of pure jazz.
Wayward Son Of Devil Boy, the only song written as a trio, is more blues orientated. Blues is just another genre wherein Scott Henderson excels; listen to his solo albums and you'll catch my drift. This piece sounds as a spontaneous jam in the studio, where all musicians can play to their heart's content. On the Jeff Berlin composition Threedom Jeff plays the bass guitar softer, but also intenser. In the famous piece Footprints, Dennis Chambers gets a fine but short solo spot. It's a nice version of this classic composition. Actual Proof and the album's final song Stratus are my personal favourites. The latter originally appeared on Spectrum, a solo album by Billy Cobham. On this piece the guitar was played by the late Tommy Bolin, who once played with Deep Purple in the mid-seventies. The interpretation of this trio is just amazing. I like the groovy drums on top of an enduring bass sound; at some points the guitars almost change it into metal. This is a true tribute to an amazing song.
With three of the best musicians in their genre and with regard to their high standards, the chance of recording a poor record is almost zero. I certainly didn't expect them to disappoint me. In fact, their outstanding versions of these well-known songs exceeded my expectations. HBC is a brilliant album that honours a number of special songs played by virtuoso musicians.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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