Collection contains an assortment of songs from the Tone Center Records catalog that feature fusion guitar great Scott Henderson. This is essentially a label "sampler", and shouldn't be viewed as a "Best Of" or "Greatest Hits" retrospective. Since it only covers material that is available on Tone Center, it only covers the last nine or so years of Henderson's long career.
And what a career it has been - In addition to his solo albums and prestigious sideman stints (Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, etc), Henderson and bassist Gary Willis fronted Tribal Tech - arguably the most groundbreaking, adventurous jazz fusion band of the last 25 years. Tribal Tech effectively dissolved following their 2000 album Rocket Science, but their body of work holds the same importance to the genre as Weather Report or Return To Forever. Part of what made Tribal Tech stand out was Henderson's guitar work. A gifted improviser, his great strength has always been his ability to mix aggressive hard blues phrasing with a rich bop vocabulary. And no one plays jazz with a true rock tone the way Henderson does.
Having said that, Collection is a bit of a mixed bag. There's some great tracks here, but some curious choices too.
"Lola Fay", "Lady P", and "Hillbilly In The Band" come from Henderson's Well To The Bone album. I'm sure "Lola Fay" and "Lady P" (both vocal tracks) were chosen for the great, bluesy guitar playing they most definitely have. But the songs themselves don't do much for me. "Hillbilly In The Band", however, is an uptempo, country-inspired instrumental that is fun from start to finish. This is also one of those "curious choices" though. The live version of this song (from Henderson's aptly titled Live album from 2004) is superior to the studio version, in my opinion, and would have been a better choice.
"Snake Soda" and "Nairobe Express" were recorded with the band Vital Tech Tones; Henderson's collaboration with bassist Victor Wooten and drummer Steve Smith. These are two of the best songs in this collection. Henderson positively rips on both of these tunes. Vital Tech Tones recorded two great albums, Vital Tech Tones (1998), and VTT2 (2000). Both are well worth checking out.
There are two tracks here from Henderson's aforementioned 2004 live album; "Slidin'" and "Sultan's Boogie". "Slidin'" is jazz blues song that has some of Henderson's hippest playing on the album. Originally recorded as "Slidin' Into Charlisa" on Tribal Tech's 1992 release Illicit, this live trio version is more of a guitar-driven tune than the original. Henderson's trademark whammy-bar accents are everywhere on this track, and his solo during the uptempo midsection is peppered with cool jazz lines. "Sultan's Boogie" is a heavier, Arabian-influenced track with a cool vibe that's different from anything else on the album.
The Tribal Tech tracks in this collection are culled from the band's final two recordings - Thick (1999) and Rocket Science (2000). Both of these albums consist of completely improvised material (though the tracks were edited later, with some overdubs added as well). The band entered the studio and just jammed, with no preparation whatsoever. For me, the results from this approach were mixed. There are some wonderful tunes on Thick and Rocket Science, but there are some I could do without as well. Fortunately, two of the best tunes from those sessions are included here. "Space Camel" is trippy funk piece with some great melodies by keyboardist Scott Kinsey, and the deep-grooving "Thick" is an awesome jam with some great wah-wah soloing by Henderson.
If you're not familiar with Scott Henderson, Collection is a decent place to start, but you won't hear the whole picture. Henderson can play over chord changes with more authority than just about any guitarist I've heard. However, we only get hints of his heavy jazz side on this release. Pairing this CD with a great Tribal Tech album such as Illicit, or their "Best Of" collection, Primal Tracks, will give you a better idea of what Scott Henderson can do.