Tribal Tech: Torque
Illicit (Bluemoon R2 79180)
Scott Kinsey (keyboards), Kirk Covington (drums).
Composed by Scott Henderson.
Recorded: Hollywood, April 1992
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
Fusion musicians were selling tons of records in the early '70s. But sales fell to a trickle by the end of the decade. Many fusion musicians, and the labels that controlled them, went overboard in attempting to prove they were the fastest and loudest. Sure the fusion movement was about virtuosity and rock-like volume. But if musicians didn't understand subtlety, nuance or even jazz history, they were not producing compelling music. Things became even worse when it was learned that through studio trickeration, almost anybody could play faster than the speed of light without any missed notes. So fusion music as we had known it just flamed out. Strangely, it was replaced by Smooth Jazz. (Pardon me while I gag.) Smooth Jazz was really fusion music with all of its edges rounded off.
There was a second brief fusion wave in the '80s. Scott Henderson and Gary Willis, the founders of Tribal Tech, rode that wave. They and such artists as Allan Holdsworth, Chick Corea, Bill Evans (sax), Jonas Hellborg, Dennis Chambers and others enjoyed a modicum of commercial success playing fusion during this time. Though this revival never caught on to the degree of a total jazz-rock comeback, it has maintained a low buzz to the present day.
"Torque" is by far the best cut on the album. Blues-funk in nature, it kicks ass right out of the gate. If you eliminated Henderson's wrenching guitar, the band would sound like Weather Report. But why do that? Much of the Weather Report sound comes from keyboardist Kinsey, who plays full-bodied twisted chords in stops and starts. Drummer Covington and bassist Willis are in lockstep. Henderson shoots out shards of glass during his solo. Kinsey adds a classic synthesizer solo. This is an impressive fusion power ballad whether it was played in the '70s, '90s or now.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky