Album Review: Scott Henderson’s People Mover

Look up ‘uncompromising’ in the dictionary, and there’s a good chance you’ll see a photo of guitar great Scott Henderson.

If he’d wanted to, he could have enjoyed a long, fruitful career as sideman to the stars – Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea and Jean-Luc Ponty were a pretty decent start – but in the early ’90s he struck out to divide his time three ways: forging a solo career, co-leading jazz/rock titans Tribal Tech and the day job as valued educator at the Guitar Institute in Hollywood, California (Tribal Tech has since bitten the dust).

Henderson’s new, ambitious, self-released album People Mover, his sixth official solo effort, has been three years in the making, its painstaking recording process occasionally documented on the entertaining guitarwank podcast. But the material has also developed during an extensive period of touring with his young band.

‘Transatlantic’ has a larger-than-life, epic quality, beautifully played, mixed and mastered. The title track builds to an anthemic coda, while ‘Primary Location’ and ‘Happy Fun-Song’ have a hint of the early Tribal Tech albums’ tropical vibe. Bassist Romain Labaye and drummer Archibald Ligonnière are superb accompanists for Henderson, grooving hard and listening even harder, even if they are yet to forge individual instrumental voices.

People Mover is a long, dense, demanding album, asking a lot of the listener but paying back in kind. Time and time again, Henderson demonstrates his total guitar mastery, pulling off dramatic technical and textural coups. He’ll play a lush, enigmatic, seductive set of chords, then repeat it without any effects, resulting in the aural equivalent of a rug being pulled from underneath the listener.

Some may miss the strong themes, song structures and rich harmonies of Tribal Tech, but on People Mover and its predecessor Vibe Station Henderson has now completely transcended his influences to conjure a guitar sound and band ethos all his own.

Buy People Mover here.

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