An apposite Facebook comment in the run-up to fusion superband Tribal Tech’s first ever London gig suggested that guitarist Scott Henderson had now overtaken Jeff Beck as blues/jazz/rock’s go-to man. Certainly Henderson pushed his claim as one of the greats at Ronnie’s, but what really marks Tribal Tech out is that each of them is a fusion hero. Three members have appeared in Weather Report solo projects (bassist Gary Willis with Wayne Shorter, drummer Kirk Covington and Henderson with Joe Zawinul) and keyboardist Scott Kinsey is surely Zawinul’s only true heir apparent.
TT’s last three albums featured compositions constructed from jam sessions so what was welcome about this long-awaited show was the focus on older tunes full of intricate harmonies and complex arrangements. Opener ‘Nite Club’ allowed Covington to set out his stall with gargantuan floor-tom-heavy fills, subtle cymbal interplay and some butt-shaking grooves – his pulsating white vest, peroxide blond ponytail and frequent gurning marked him out as one mutha you wouldn’t want to mess with, once described as the most un-PC drummer of all time.
Old favourites ‘Signal Path’ and ‘Foreign Affairs’ were shrewdly reconstructed a la late-‘60s Miles, while ‘Face First’ and ‘The Big Wave’ (named in ironic tribute to the early ‘90s US smooth jazz boom) were relatively faithful to the originals and greeted like hit singles by the hyper crowd. Kinsey and Henderson’s telepathic duet which opened ‘Palm Moon Plaza’ couldn’t help but conjure up great Shorter/Zawinul head-to-heads of Weather Report gigs past, and a glorious, relatively straight reading of Shorter’s ‘Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum’ only reiterated the kinship.
A thrilling night of top-notch jazz/rock with lots of light and shade.