HBC Henderson Berlin Chambers

HBC Scott Henderson, Jeff Berlin, and Dennis Chambers > Music Review by Scott Thomas

Guess what I just received in the mail recently...? Yep! The "HBC" Album with Scott Henderson, Jeff Berlin, and Dennis Chambers. Oh goody, goody, goody. Just these names in the same sentence send chills down my spine. Here we have in hand three of some of the most successful pioneering musicians in jazz fusion collaborating on one CD. You bet-cha !!! Now here’s another great collection of music from Mike Varney's Shrapnel Records-Group.

The instrumental I'm listening to now is the jazz fusion jam called "Actual Proof" I think it was made first famous by the legendary Herbie Hancock... I actually went back to the original Hancock tune on Youtube to compare HBC's version to Hancock's fusion of enlightenment. I must be honest; Scott Henderson and Company nailed this one down hands down... Herbie uses a full orchestra, and piano on the original and the HBC trio creates a big sound by recapturing and improving on the fidelity of yester-year’s sound and vibe. The heart and the soul of this remember-able masterpiece is captured through each one of HBC’s talented musicians emotive playing and of course taking things to an all new higher level of playing and performance. You swear there are keyboards in there. However, there is not.  Did you know that on Herbie's version of the tune “Actual Proof” from the Album “Thrust" in 1974 / Columbia that it is well over 9 minutes long? Well, HBC decided to beat that with their version logging in at 10 minutes and 15 seconds. These fusion kats like their tunes to be long in duration. It gives them time to take you on a sonic journey into new frontiers of our aural ether and also to flaunt their stylistic super melodies.

HBC is the new fusion super-group comprised of three virtuoso musicians: Scott Henderson Jeff Berlin and Dennis Chambers who join together to create one of the most phenomenal trios in the history of jazz fusion. 

The next burning melody is called "Mysterious Traveler". If this virtual sonic-train doesn't take you there and back, then there is no helping you. The ultra-funky percussions by Dennis Chambers on this cut are extraordinaire to say the least. He is innovated and plays like he has 4 arms instead of two. Jeff Berlin holds it all together with his tight methodical bass thumpin'. And lastly, Master Henderson just amazes me with his guitar prowess, tones, phrasings, guitar effects and usages.

Rather than jumping into the studio as virtual strangers and winging it like some superstar alliances, HBC hits the road first and then refined a repertoire of classic fusion covers in front of thousands of hungry fusion fans. After assembling an impressive collection of road-tested masterpieces, the group, composed of all leaders, decided that it was finally time to combine their talents to make this musical statement.

Now here is another uptown up-tempo swinging Jazz piece that reflects the sound of the Jazz greats. So once again, here I go doing my homework. Oh! And I see we have another cover, and it is a Miles Davis tune called "Footprints" and that is what "HBC" has playing here...  I will have to find the original to this one and compare the differences. As you know, Miles Davis' great mid-'60s quintet was at the height of their powers when they recorded Footprints in the fall of 1966. The music here is masterfully played as Scott develops his solo from a series of riffs, gaining focus and momentum with the help of the ferociously rhythmic Chambers and Berlin’s rock-solid bass line... This is a driving statement from tiny melodic kernels.

Henderson is one of the most well-known contemporary guitarists in the jazz fusion genre and he has mesmerized guitar fans around the globe with his masterful phrases and unique style. Guitar fans have enjoyed hearing Scott work with Jean-luc Ponty, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, and power fusion trio "Henderson, Smith, and Wooten" with Steve Smith and Victor Wooten. In addition Scott has churned out an incredible body of work stemming from his other career as founding member of Tribal Tech and also a solo artist, both of which he has toured extensively to support.

"D Flat Waltz" is a Weather Report song that has been nicely redone. I notice that "HBC" doesn't bring a tune to the table unless they can bring something to the musical palette as well. As I sit here and listen to the quality, pristine and unique sounds, I must say that the music is vivacious, formidable, and ferocious at times, and lastly, it feels celebrated.

Bassist Jeff Berlin is a celebrated solo artist with numerous fusion recordings under his name and affiliations with artists such as Al Di Meola, Bill Bruford, Allan Holdsworth, John McLaughlin, and Billy Cobham. Berlin is widely regarded as one of the greatest bassists in the world and is equally adept at playing hard-core no holds-barred jazz-fusion and straight ahead traditional jazz. As a bassist Berlin's tone phrasing and keen sense of melody are a winning combination that has helped him reach the top of magazine reader's polls for years.

As the music progresses nicely between the tracks, we come upon this little conjoining harmonic jewel called "The Orphan". And Mr. Berlin’s bass lines are blending wonderfully and playfully with Scott's volume controlled guitar-type voicing that sound like a synth-keyboard in nature. It has to be guitar…  Because I know in concert it will be all guitars.

"Sighting seeing" comes straight at ya without slowing down or to even to look back for that matter. Henderson is always pushing the limits with his writing and playing and with his complex harmonies and phrasing. Let's not forget the use of  his supreme musical vocabulary. The music here is like riding a music-car through  many side winding streets of musical notes of all different shapes, sizes and colors as they go streaming by the window real fast. All the while the road twists and turns in smart harmonic fashion.

A formidable, ferocious, and ultra-funky presence behind the kit in such celebrated ensembles as Parlament-Funkadelic, Steely Dan, Santana, and The Brecker Brothers as well as incendiary fusion outfits led by guitarist John Scofield, Steve Kahn, Mike Stern, and John McLaughlin, Dennis Chambers is a miracle in modern music. A remarkably versatile drummer who has shown limitless ability to swing on a small kit in traditional jazz settings or flaunt his stylistic chops in fusion super-sessions, Dennis Chambers is one of the most recorded drummers in the world of jazz fusion.

The last three songs "Wayward Son of Devil Boy", “Threedom”, and lastly “Stratus” keep turning the flames progressively higher and by the time they hit the last song on the album "Stratus", everything is on fire. This is definitely one of my favorite tunes on the CD because it "fires me up" so much. HBC keep this one tight and in the pocket all the while Scott Henderson melts the fretboard with his playing, wide-vibrato, hammering, mind-bending chops and lastly but not least, grandiose guitar playing antics.

Parting Shot Across the Bow: Rich, full of exuberance with technical prowess and know how to move you from one musical dimension to another without any taxation on the mind and soul...

HBC Henderson Berlin Chambers