Guitarist Scott Henderson’s innate talents overwhelmed both the music scene and music schools of his native South Florida before he moved to Los Angeles 40 years ago. Yet he didn’t relocate for stardom, eschewing sideman roles with Chick Corea, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Joe Zawinul to form his own band Tribal Tech, active from 1984-2013. Henderson’s solo recording career started in 1994, and his new People Mover release is one of the high-water marks among the half-dozen efforts under his own name.
Another was its predecessor, the similarly self-released Vibe Station from 2015, with bassist Travis Carlton and drummer Alan Hertz. This time, Henderson features an even younger rhythm section in French musicians Romain Labaye (bass) and Archibald Ligonnière (drums), with equally explosive results. Henderson has always mixed his jazz/fusion guitar influences (like Allan Holdsworth) with those based in rock (Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore) and blues (Stevie Ray Vaughan), and does so from his opening chimes of “Transatlantic,” which segues between tranquil and high-octane sections, the latter featuring his signature soloing accents. “Primary Location” veers funkier, showcasing the rhythmic emphasis in both Henderson’s playing and composition and highlighting Labaye’s fretless tones and harmonics.
People Mover features more effects, overdubs, and general production than its predecessors, courtesy of both the bandleader and Hertz, who recorded and helped mix the 10 tracks. “All Aboard” features piped-in crowd noise and touches of electronics within its inside-out cadence, and former Tribal Tech keyboardist Scott Kinsey contributes electronic percussion to the closing ballad “Fawn.” In between, Henderson shows his clean-tone soloing prowess on the swinging title track, also featuring a banner solo by Labaye and furious Ligonnière drumming; “Satellite” offers a Middle Eastern influence and background spoken overdubs; and “Syringe” features the trio’s ample improvisation within another of Henderson’s inimitable, acidic compositional mixes of jazz, rock, and blues.