Scott Henderson 2019
Exploring emotions through tune and tone, venerable six-stringer taps into timelessness.
“Will you still need me when I’m 64?”: this album doesn’t leave space for such a question, as Scott Henderson, a quarter of a century into his solo career, came up with a master class on how to tread a thin line between jazz and rock – sometimes gracefully careening to either genre yet deliberately eschewing their fusion, which may seem unfashionable nowadays but is, in fact, refreshing. More so, it’s perfect for the trio setting the guitarist has been sticking to in the last decade, although what the little ensemble deliver over the course of ten tracks can’t be deemed minimalist; rather, for all the nuances on display, it’s full-on and informed with genuine feelings. That’s what the album’s title refers to: despite the deceptive narcissism of such pieces as “Fawn” – the record’s tranquil finale – Scott’s impressive technique would hardly matter if he catered only to connoisseurs.
And that’s why the energy levels of “Syringe” will affect anyone without requiring an aficionado to admire the way Henderson and his combo shuffle around a certain Ellington’s classic, so while opener “Transatlantic” offers a pellucid twang to create the momentum in an equally quiet manner, there’s also dynamic surge and folk chant taking the drift beyond the obvious, towards the sensual stampede of “Satellite” or the sublimely cinematic “Blood Moon” which must evoke the blues but ultimately trades the old-time elegy for contemporary funk. Whereas the titular cut is opting for a beat-heavy and harmonies-rich, yet unhurried, pace in a rather sparse space, it’s easy to imagine slabs of brass placing “Primary Location” in a big band area, as riffs and licks swing with a lot of gusto and style, letting guitar tone rule the day and allowing the groove to ebb and flow thanks to the sympathetic sway of Archibald Ligonniere’s drums and Romain Labaye’s bass who’s given a few solo spots here.
Still, it’s Scott’s vibrant vision that drives this album through many moods, and if some of the numbers could have been shortened for better impact, Henderson’s balance of emotions is truly striking.