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Scott Henderson

Scott Henderson has recently released another trio record entitled "Live." It's with his long-standing members John Humphrey on bass and Kirk Covington on drums and vocals. This one is more along the lines of his blues/rock vibe and much of it is very unrestrained, 'in your face' playing--as it should be for a guitarist who is so eclectic in his tastes and so accomplished in many styles of playing. Jeff Beck, Richie Blackmore, Albert King, Pat Metheny, and John Scofield are all guitarists he cites as great players and influences. In the past, he's worked with Chick Corea in his Elektric Band, Joe Zawinul in Weather Report (4 years), and co-leads another long-standing group called Tribal Tech with bassist Gary Willis. He's currently working on new music in keyboardist extraordinaire Scott Kinsey's group out in Los Angeles. Scott Henderson was able to speak with us about his current projects and his thoughts on some other musical issues.

JazzReview: Hey, this is John Dworkin calling from

Scott Henderson: Oh, hey man. How you doing?

JazzReview: I'm doing well.

Scott Henderson: Good.

JazzReview: I got your new record "Live". Very cool record.

Scott Henderson: Oh, thanks.

JazzReview: Are you playing with that group right now, or are you doing something else?

Scott Henderson: No, I'm doing something else. I'm playing with Scott Kinsey who plays in a band called Tribal Tech with me. We're just playing his music and playing 3-4 times a month in town. That's all I'm doing right now. I'm gonna do the trio again when I have some new tunes because we're tired of playing the same music we've been playing for a while. So I need to write at least half a record of new stuff before we get going on that again.

JazzReview: Yeah, I recognized a couple of the tunes on the new record from "Tore Down House" and

Scott Henderson: Uh huh.

JazzReview: Cool tunes. I was wondering about the tunes on the new record. Did you guys specifically shed those tunes for the recording, or have you all been playing together long enough that you could just call whatever at the gig?

Scott Henderson: We'd been touring for maybe a year or two before we recorded "Well To The Bone," which a lot of the tunes are from that record--and then we had already been playing at least 3-4 years before we did the "Live" record. So we pretty much knew the music well. Too well actually, so (laughter)

JazzReview: Well, I don't know about too well, but yeah. You guys are obviously all over those tunes. So, playing in a trio as opposed to other groups you've played in with horns, keyboards, you have a preference with that? Do you like having the freedom, or do you like having somebody comping, or...?

Scott Henderson: It's so different, you know, because when I play with keyboard players, especially Scott Kinsey, it's more about the interaction between us than it is about a specific player. You don't pay as much attention to what you're doing as to how you can vibe off what the other guys are doing. So it's a whole different kind of concentration when you play trio. With my tunes, it’s a little bit more composed because I don’t have the ability to just come up with completely new stuff because I don’t have anybody to. I don’t know, react to, as much as when you’re playing with a keyboard player. So it’s a little bit more composed. It has to be. And of course, I have to play way more chordal stuff and just fill up the space more. They’re both fun. I’d say the trio challenges me more as a guitarist. And the interaction thing probably challenges me more as a musician.

JazzReview: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking in terms of the comping vs. soloing/lines thing, that you have to be responsible for both if you don’t have somebody else.

Scott Henderson: Yeah. It feels pretty naked when you’re playing trio sometimes and it’s a little scary at first. I remember the first trio gigs that I did. It really felt weird since I had played with keyboard players for so many years. But, you know, you get used to it. It’s hard because every night you’re listening to yourself only. So after you do a bunch of gigs and you’re hearing yourself play every night a lot it’s a little hard to come up with new ideas every night, you know? That’s my main challenge and you can’t really, possibly, re-invent yourself every single night on a tour. But you try somehow (laughter) and sometimes you crash and burn. It’s definitely a challenging thing to play trio.

JazzReview: Yeah, the thing about having to come up with new stuff all the time, I think that’s something everybody deals with. But you’ve got enough stuff in your bag that when you’re not playing something that’s completely new, there’s still good stuff coming out.

Scott Henderson: I hope. Always working on new vocabulary.

JazzReview: You mentioned Scott Kinsey. You’ve been playing with him for a long time, right?

Scott Henderson: Yeah, since 1990-91.

JazzReview: I want to say I remember seeing you play with him and, uh, Gary Willis and I don’t who

Scott Henderson: Yeah. A Tribal Tech gig, yeah.

JazzReview: You played at a place in Albany. A small place called Pauly’s Hotel.

Scott Henderson: Oh yeah! I know Pauly’s. Yeah, I remember Pauly’s. That was a fun place to play.

JazzReview: Yeah. It was a cool place and the band was just killing that night. A lot of the people there were especially blown away by Kinsey because they weren’t as familiar with his

Scott Henderson: Oh yeah, Kinsey is great. I mean, he’s pretty [Joe] Zawinul-influenced and all of his sounds are really analog--warm kinds of sounds and he’s just such a great improviser and such a creative musician. It’s really amazing to play with him. Every time he plays something, I’m always pretty impressed.

JazzReview: So you said you’re working on his music right now. What kind of stuff?

Scott Henderson: Yeah. He’s got a new album and it’s actually with his own band, with Steve Tavaglione on saxophone, Jimmy Earl on bass and Kirk Covington on drums. But Jimmy and Tav, they don’t go out on the road. They stay in L.A. So when he does a tour, I’m gonna go out with them, and then I do the gigs Tav doesn’t do. So me and Tav sort of switch off on the gig. I know Kinsey’s music pretty well. Yeah, he’s actually been using me more than Tav lately, maybe because I’m going to do the road gig with him.

JazzReview: I seem to remember reading some interview somewhere where you were talking about being on the road. I’m wondering how much you like that. How much you have to do it?

Scott Henderson: I actually love being on the road. I like playing every night. I’m not really crazy about air travel, but that’s what you gotta do. It’s really cool in Europe because once you get over there you’re pretty much on the ground the whole time. It’s a pretty easy life actually, just 5-6 hours of driving usually and you’re there. It’s great to play every night. I find that I’m definitely on the top of my game when I’m on tour as opposed to being in town.

JazzReview: You’re in California, right?

Scott Henderson: Yeah, I’m in L.A.

JazzReview: Nice. Back to the new "Live" record. A lot of the stuff here is real rock-based, or rock/blues based, as opposed to what people would call jazz, or fusion, or whatever,

Scott Henderson: Yeah.

JazzReview: I was wondering, is it kind of random, the stylistic direction that you go, or do you make a decision like, "Well, I’m in a blues/rock mood this year. I really wanna do that."?

Scott Henderson: It’s more random because every time I write a tune it’s I just sit down and write and whatever comes out, comes out. Some of my tunes are more jazz-based and some are more rock and blues- based. Some of them are in the middle, you know? So when we choose the music to play on the road, we usually just pick the stuff we have the most fun playing. Man, I don’t know...other than that, we don’t really think about styles so much because we throw jazz tunes in sometimes. We’ll throw in a standard and sometimes we’ll play one of my more changes-oriented tunes. And then on some nights, we just kind of feel like rockin’ and we don’t really go A lot of it depends on the audience too. If you’re playing in a club that has more of a rock crowd, when you turn down really soft and play jazz it’s just Sometimes it’s not the right time and place to do it. You don’t feel like the audience will be into it. But then, sometimes you play these really quiet types of places where you know you’re gonna have a lot of quiet in the audience when you play. Then it’s fun to play jazz and the audience is real receptive to it. So it really just depends on the moment. We don’t have a set list that’s the same every night. We kind of call tunes when we feel like playing them.

JazzReview: That’s cool. There’s that one standard on the record by Wayne Shorter

Scott Henderson: Yeah. Audiences in Europe, as opposed to the States, are a little bit quieter sometimes. You feel like you’re playing in a club and everybody’s really quiet. They’re used to listening to jazz over there, so we turn down and play soft and mix that with our loud stuff too. But sometimes over here we play at places that are kind of noisy, you know? You hear the cash register going off (laughter) and they’re like rock and roll clubs. It’s more like a show, I guess, as opposed to I don’t know. It’s more like a rock gig.

JazzReview: Yeah, maybe the ‘show’ aspect of it is fun for you guys, too--performing, as opposed to just the music, it’s kind of fun

Scott Henderson: Yeah, I enjoy doing both. I like the gigs where we’re playing really diverse music. Where we’ll play a really loud, balls-to-the-walls tune, and then turn down real soft and play jazz. I love that. I like the diversity in a concert where it’s not all the same energy every tune.

JazzReview: I think there’s plenty of people around with that same attitude. I assume you get plenty of people that are into that as well.

Scott Henderson: Uh huh.

JazzReview: The rock tunes that you write, I assume that you write the lyrics as well, right? Like for ‘Dog Party’ and

Scott Henderson: Yeah. Unfortunately, yeah.

JazzReview: Unfortunately? What are you talking about? (laughter) They’re great!

Scott Henderson: It’s just kind of a pain in the ass. I’m usually hoping that the tune will survive as an instrumental, and if me playing the tune doesn’t make it If playing the melody on the guitar with the chords and it’s just missing something still, then it’s time to add vocals. So, I’m usually hoping I don’t have to do that because writing lyrics is such a pain in the ass. (laughter)

JazzReview: That’s funny. I don’t know man. The whole thing about writing a song, a tune with words, lyrics It’s very difficult. I think a lot of people don’t realize how hard it is.

Scott Henderson: It is hard, yeah. It is hard.

JazzReview: Your tunes come off though. And there seems to be, from my perspective anyway, some kind of connecting attitude or something in the songs that you write. They’re very They’re really funny.

Scott Henderson: Yeah. I mean, I’m not a very serious person. I don’t really have anything political or angst-ridden to write about, you know what I the kids do? So I just write for fun and if I’m gonna write lyrics they’re just gonna be funny. So I don’t really think about Comedy is pretty much my whole life (laughter). I don’t know man. I’m not that serious when it comes to writing lyrics. I figure the music is going to say what I need to say, and the words are just there because they have to be.

JazzReview: Well, I think the lyrics help a lot. A lot of guys--Scofield, Mingus, etc.-- guys like that, just had really funny titles. Hey, I seem to sense there could be humor in the playing as well, and I get laughs sometimes in just your guitar playing as opposed to

Scott Henderson: Well good, thanks. That’s a compliment to me. Definitely, thank you.

JazzReview: Are there any guys, guitarists in particular, or anyone that is playing right now that you really like or think people should check out?

Scott Henderson: Oh man, there’s so many. Lots of ‘em. I could name probably 100 guys who I really like. It’s just so much talent out there, I wouldn’t know where to start. Of course, all the guys everybody knows about are great: Scofield, Metheny, Bill Frisell, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Steve Cardenas. There’s a lot of great jazz players out there that are really good. I just saw Kurt play in Europe. He’s awesome. I really like his playing a lot. [Michael] Landau is great for rock and blues. Of course, Jeff Beck. Yeah, they’re all guys you know (laughs). No surprises really.

JazzReview: Yeah, Beck seems to be maybe the guy that I hear most in your playing.

Scott Henderson: Yeah, oh man. I’ve always listened to Jeff Beck. Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix were always my favorite guitar players from when I was a little kid, and Richie Blackmore too.

JazzReview: Yeah.

Scott Henderson: And of course, I really liked Albert King’s playing a lot. So man, I’m sure you hear influences there, especially with the vibrato bar, because the bar has been my personality ever since I picked up a Strat and Jeff Beck uses it a lot. So we get compared a lot because I use the bar. I’m kind of a jazzy version of Jeff Beck I guess (laughter) when people hear me use the bar. I’ve always really loved slide playing and I’m not really that good at it. My action is too low to do it on stage, so the bar is kind of my slide.

JazzReview: Do you still work on your tone and stuff like that in terms of

Scott Henderson: Yeah, sure. Not as much as I used to because I’m pretty happy with it. I’ve kind of come full circle because I’m using a lot of the gear I used when as a kid, after experimenting with who knows how many amps and stuff. I’m playing through a Marshall with [green backs]. I mean, I was using the same rig when I was 16. So I’m kind of happy with the tone.

JazzReview: Yeah, I’ve heard that with other people too - that they end up going back to stuff they used when they were younger after trying all kinds of different stuff. They just go back to basics, a couple pedals

Scott Henderson: Yeah, my set-up is real simple these days - just a Marshall and a few pedals. That’s it.

JazzReview: Are you teaching or writing any more books? There was that one book that you did, that "Guitar Chord System" thing.

Scott Henderson: Yeah, I haven’t done any books since then, but I’m still teaching over at MI [Musician’s Institute] on Mondays and Tuesdays when I’m in town. That’s a great gig ‘cuz we just sit around and play all day. So, it’s really fun.

JazzReview: Nice. I was doing a little Internet research on you and I came across a Website that’s for a realty PA guy.

Scott Henderson: Oh yeah. (laughter) That’s a realtor. That’s why I had to use ".net" because when I got my Website, there was already a and he’s a realtor (laughter). That’s pretty funny.

JazzReview: There are a couple tunes on the new record, the "Live" one, called "Nairobi" and "Jakarta" that had the most funky sounds going on. Sounded like maybe there was some kind of MIDI thing happening. Was there something like that?

Scott Henderson: Well I use an SE70 live and it’s just a little multi-effects unit and there’s some great sounds in that little box ,so that’s probably what you’re hearing with those tunes.

JazzReview: One thing almost sounded like there were different sounds assigned to different strings even, or something. I don’t know where I was getting’ that from but

Scott Henderson: Uh, no. There’s nothing like that because I don’t have MIDI. It’s all just processed guitar. So whatever you’re hearing is just pedals combined with the SE70, in mono really. I don’t even have a stereo rig anymore. So it’s a pretty big sound but Landua - I kind of did this album the ‘Landau’ way because Mike usually puts a guitar on one side of the speaker and puts the delay in the other speaker. It’s pretty wide sounding. This is the first time I’ve ever really done that exclusively for a whole album. Usually I’ve got delays on both sides, I’ve got the guitar in the middle, I’ve got all kinds of other stereo stuff going on. But this is kind of a more ‘live’ approach and even though I’m in mono, when you listen to it on the CD, it sounds pretty ‘stereoized’ because of the right/left thing.

JazzReview: So, wait. So there’s guitar in one side and the delay is all in the other side. Is that like a ping- pong thing?

Scott Henderson: Pretty much. I mean that’s pretty much what we did. The guitar’s on the left and the echo and the reverb is on the right, pretty much for the whole album. When I tried doing all the other little studio tricks with delays to stereoize guitar, it didn’t sound live. It sounded too studio. You know, it’s like the guitar is kind of imaged on both sides and that’s not really the way you hear me when I play live, because I just play a mono rig. So we wanted to make it sound like you’re listening to guitar and the guitar is in the same place for the whole record, like if you were listening to a real stage.

JazzReview: Well, it really works.

Scott Henderson: Yeah, it’s a big sound. It came out really well, thanks to Mike. Mike is a great engineer. He really helped me a lot. Not only a great guitar player, but he’s an amazing engineer, as well (pause, Scott gets a phone call). That was Ray Gomez calling me. Do you know him?

JazzReview: I don’t know him.

Scott Henderson: Great guitar player, man. Awesome!

JazzReview: Cool. Well, hey man, this went fast. Thanks so much for talking with me.

Scott Henderson: Well, thanks very much man. Thanks for the call and thanks for the support. I really appreciate it. Take care.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Scott Henderson
  • Interview Date: 7/1/2005
  • Subtitle: Release The Hounds!
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