Members of the jazz fusion groups Vital Information, Tribal Tech, and the Flecktones team up to form the Vital Tech Tones on this uninhibited fusion extravaganza that might be easier to describe by what it is not rather than by what it is. Vital Tech Tones integrates so many different musical elements from so many different musical styles that it would be very difficult to articulate them all and how they are integrated together. Be prepared to bring your full attention span when listening to this album, because you will need it all to follow everything that the trio is going to throw your way. It took me a number of listenings to get my mind around the whole album and to get it into some frame of reference to understand it by. The musical frame does not sit still for the duration of the album and the constantly changing soundscape deploys complex ideas from many different genres and styles of music, as you may have expected from Scott Henderson's fusionistic style. If you are looking for something that is nice, soothing, and reassuringly repetitive and relaxing to lull you into a trance, you had better look someplace else because this is not it.
Vital Tech Tones is a very progressive collaboration of highly-skilled musicians that push their capabilities to the limits of their intelligence. The instrumentation is state of the art for jazz fusion. Guitar, bass, drums... they are all superb. The style is diverse but definitely has the trademark Henderson biting, hard edge to it. But, there is a lot more sophistication to it and I wouldn't want to characterize it altogether that way. Henderson seamlessly weaves jazzy, bluesy, and rock-ish phrasings together over complex chordal harmonies making the listener forget that the vocabulary he draws from spans many different genres and styles.
Vital Tech Tones seems like it is geared towards the techie-musician listener audience due to its progressive nature. Though there are several tracks that may be more widely accessible, I am thinking that the accessibility to a musically uneducated audience is probably pretty remote. But, for the educated ear, there is a lot to absorb and jazz fusion fanatics will probably enjoy this effort immensely. And, the sound is not too far outside that it is not digestible.
There are several tracks on this album that struck my fancy. "Snake Soda" is a real fusion bullet that is smoking with driving, raw jazz, rock, and blues phrasing. "King Twang" has a Henderson spin on the blues that features some raucous bluesy riffing put into a quickly moving frame. The trio cover the jazz standard "Giant Steps" with a vision and style that is sure to raise your brow if you are familiar with any of the earlier versions, such as that by John Coltrane. Wooten gets down on the bass in "Giant Steps" with some soloing that is sure to impress the most staunch bass critics. It is really interesting to hear the chord progressions voiced on the guitar and Henderson gives the interpretation a character that brings them to life.
Vital Tech Tones is lesson material for any aspiring guitarists, bassists, and drummers. Musicians, jazz fusion connoisseurs, and Henderson fans will probably constitute the bulk of the happy listening audience for this album. The outstanding technical proficiency and high art demonstrated on Vital Tech Tones will surely strike a resonance with the educated audience.