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Dixie Dregs story - April issue of Palm Beach Arts Paper

"Fusion" is a musical term commonly used to describe a mix of jazz influence with electric rock. It's a blend that started in the late 1960s and early 1970s, popularized separately by artists like trumpeter Miles Davis and guitarist/vocalist Frank Zappa, who created disparate versions and catapulted band members toward future careers -- from Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett to Terry Bozzio, George Duke, Jean-Luc Ponty, Steve Vai, Adrian Belew, Mike Keneally and Vinnie Colaiuta.
But among Davis' electric jazz and blues excursions and Zappa's often-humorous classical embellishments was another inimitable early member of the club. The Dixie Dregs (dixiedregs.com) perform at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale on April 26 with original members guitarist Steve Morse and bassist Andy West; long-standing violinist Allen Sloan and drummer Rod Morgenstein, and guest Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess.
The Augusta, GA-spawned quintet has not only encompassed instrumental jazz, blues, rock and classical styles, but included humor and progressive elements of country, bluegrass, and Celtic music since Morse and West first formed as Dixie Grit in 1970. Forget the convenient "instrumental rock" and "southern rock" tags that writers have used because of Morse's metallic speed and the group's intermittent use of standard 4/4 time signatures. Picture a cross between the Allman Brothers Band's jamming excursions and those of guitarist McLaughlin's scintillating Mahavishnu Orchestra, and you've dipped a toe into a vast musical body of water.
"We kind of grew up together as a band," West says from his home in Arizona via a Zoom meeting, "which is unique. It's hard to describe what we do, other than to say we're in the canon of rock music, which we fit into somehow. But there's all these different influences, along with beauty and power. Just no words. But there's a long history of music without words, and I honestly don't think anyone else has the same kind of sound we do. So if you can appreciate this kind of sound, we might be the only place to get it from."
West is one of the historic bassists who plays primarily with a pick, and he and Morse eventually moved further south to study at the University of Miami School of Music. As part of the school's "Rock Ensemble II," they were jamming by 1973 with Morgenstein, who'd succeeded three previous drummers, and future doctor of anesthesiology and pain management Sloan. That core quartet, along with student keyboardist Frank Josephs, recorded a 10-song demo album titled [i]The Great Spectacular[i] live in the studio at the university. It was released as a Dixie Dregs limited-edition LP in 1975 and eventually as a CD in 1997.
"It was a dynamic scene at the school then," West says, "with people like Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny and Hiram Bullock popping in and out. Steve studied classical guitar there and already had a direction, and being around those kinds of players pushed us. He also had a little recording experience, and that was the era when the four-track Tascam tape recorder came out. Studios were very hard to get into at that point, so we were fortunate to be able to record at the school's facility."
"The recording process was bizarre," Morse says of the sessions, "since we were trying out the recording stuff that had just been installed at school. We worked a few nights after school with limited experimentation."
In spite of the group being an impossible-to-pinpoint instrumental act, the Dixie Dregs couldn't be ignored by recording labels. The group was signed in 1976 to the Macon, GA-based imprint Capricorn, home to the Allmans as well as other regional faves like Bonnie Bramlett, Delbert McClinton, the Marshall Tucker Band, Wet Willie, and Sea Level.
Its 1977 debut, [i]Free Fall[i], featured cover art of the band jumping out of an airplane led by Morse, a future airline pilot. The instrumental format resulted in modest sales, mostly to other musicians who raved about its six-minute centerpiece. "Cruise Control" was a breakneck rocker with high degree-of-difficulty traded solos between Morse, West, Sloan and keyboardist Steve Davidowski that got shorter and more interlocking while Morgenstein anchored the frenetic rhythm. The track became a staple in live performances.
The 1978 sophomore album [i]What If[i], with former Dixie Grit keyboardist Mark Parrish replacing Davidowski, went one step beyond. Its title track and closing "Night Meets Light" approximated classical pieces performed by a miniature electric orchestra; the raucous opener "Take It Off the Top" and epic "Odyssey" also became concert staples, and "Ice Cakes" and "Gina Lola Breakdown" simultaneously showcased the quintet's tongue-in-cheek homages to the sounds of New Orleans and Nashville. The album also featured a rare track not written or co-written by Morse, the band's leader and composer. West's "Travel Tunes" went from boil to circus-themed simmer and back, with a fiery Morse solo in its midsection.
"That tune also came out of that four-track recorder era," West says. "Steve brought the guitar lines and chordal patterns, but I'd otherwise written and recorded the melodies and the form. Standing next to Steve with your own composition is daunting, but we were working for the first time with producer Ken Scott, who we'd always wanted to work with because he'd engineered for the Mahavishnu Orchestra, one of our heroes. Ken had us play all of our tunes, and that was one of the ones he chose."
As usual, such instrumental prowess was recognized more in Europe than the United States. The band's tour to support [i]What If[i] included an invitation to perform at the 11th annual Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 1978. A rousing, well-received set would yield the concert half of the band's acclaimed live-and-studio LP, [i]Night of the Living Dregs[i] (1979). Its highlight was "The Bash," a rearrangement of the traditional "Wabash Cannonball" featuring Morse's warp-speed picking. The crowd erupts both during and after the raveup, and the entire 45-minute set is featured on the 2006 DVD [i]Live at Montreux 1978[i].
"By the time we got to Montreux, we'd toured a lot playing those songs," West says. "We'd crafted sets to win over an audience, and the audience there definitely didn't know what to expect from us at first. But they increasingly got into it. It was the right moment in time for us."
Like many acts that had found any level of success in the 1970s or earlier, the Dixie Dregs had trouble transitioning into the comparatively unsubstantial and video-dominated 1980s, even with a gifted new keyboardist in T. Lavitz. Capricorn declared bankruptcy, so the group signed a three-album deal with Arista Records, releasing [i]Dregs of the Earth[i] in 1980. They then shortened their name to The Dregs for [i]Unsung Heroes[i] (1981), and added vocals by the Doobie Brothers' Patrick Simmons and Santana's Alex Ligertwood to tracks on [i]Industry Standard[i] (1982).
A busy Dr. Sloan was replaced for the latter by Mark O'Connor, whose dexterity on both violin and guitar resulted in scintillating interplay with Morse, especially during live shows. Yet the changes never resulted in increased sales. [i]Industry Standard[i], its title approximating a middle finger to the music biz, would be the last studio album West would appear on as the group disbanded from 1983-1988. He'd go on to become vice president for analytics and adaptive learning at Pearson Education, a London-based textbook, test and assessment subsidiary company.
"I'm retired now, but I was able to make a living in that business," says West. "Our band had reached a certain level of success, but we were asking, 'How can we get more people to listen to us?' People were calling us The Dregs anyway, so we figured we could just be called that. We'd opened for the Doobie Brothers and Santana, and they loved our band, so we came up with the idea of having those guys work with us on a couple songs. But we still didn't achieve a greater level of financial success."
A frustrated Morse would form his own self-titled trio (now featuring bassist Dave LaRue and drummer Van Romaine), which opens the Dixie Dregs' "Anachronicity Tour 2024" shows, during that five-year hiatus. He also became the short-lived guitarist for classic rockers Kansas, a move he'd recreate in longer form with Deep Purple from 1994-2022. Morgenstein started a long association with rock band Winger, and later teamed up with Lavitz (1956-2010) in Jazz Is Dead, a fusion tribute act to the Grateful Dead. The drummer also continues a long career in instruction through the Berklee College of Music in Boston online.
Morse recently lost his wife, Janine Morse, in February after her long battle with Stage 4 cancer. She'd been an ardent fan and supporter of the Dixie Dregs, and an inspiration for the group reuniting for tours over the past several years.
"We had a rehearsal scheduled, and Janine passed away right before it," says West. "We went to the funeral, and found out Steve still wanted to rehearse to try to take his mind off of things. He was understandably distraught, but we were able to run through the tunes. Janine really wanted us to play together again, and to come on this tour with us."
From 1988 onward, the Dixie Dregs -- with the southern part of its name reinstated -- have toured occasionally while its members participated in other projects and professions. LaRue capably replaced West from 1988-2016, as evidenced by the 1992 concert CD [i]Bring 'Em Back Alive[i], which features a reinterpretation of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" as well as a cover-chocked "Medley (Take It Off the Top)," plus "Cruise Control" and other original faves.
LaRue also recorded on the band's only subsequent studio CD, [i]Full Circle[i] (1994), which features another fiery Sloan replacement in former Mahavishnu Orchestra violinist Jerry Goodman, who stayed in the lineup through 2016. It also contains the band's lone studio cover tune, The Yardbirds' "Shapes of Things." On the 2000 live CD [i]California Screamin'[i], recorded over three nights at the Roxy Theater in Los Angeles, Morse, Morgenstein and Lavitz alternately team up with West and Sloan; LaRue and Goodman. The results include retellings of "What If," "The Bash" and [i]Full Circle[i] material along with the Allmans' "Jessica" and Zappa's "Peaches En Regalia," played with the late icon's guitar-playing son Dweezil Zappa.
A 2018 "Dawn of The Dregs" reunion tour celebrated the legacy of the 40-year-old lineup of Morse, West, Morgenstein, Sloan and Davidowski. The latter keyboardist has since retired from touring, which signaled the participation of Rudess, who's renowned in software as well as for his progressive rock band, on this tour's current southern leg through Tennessee, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Florida.
"The name Dixie Dregs was designed as a joke," West says, "since most of us weren't from the Deep South, even though we ended up there. I was born in Rhode Island, Steve grew up in Michigan, Rod's from New York, and Allen's from Miami. Steve and I were in Dixie Grit, but when that band broke up, we became the dregs of Dixie Grit. We didn't even think it needed to be explained."

Whatever one labels the Dixie Dregs stylistically hardly matters to the band members or their followers, who know that these musically-educated fusion virtuosos are certainly no laughing matter.
That being said, a pilot, a doctor, a technologist, a teacher and a software developer walk into a bar...

If You Go
The Dixie Dregs perform at the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale
When: 7 p.m. April 26
Tickets: $62 plus fees and up
Info: 954-564-1074, cultureroom.net

Steve Vai story - March issue of Palm Beach Arts Paper

If you asked fans of 63-year-old guitarist Steve Vai (www.vai.com) what he's best-known for, you might get a variety of answers.
One might be the Long Island, New York native's recording and touring run within the fusion of styles created by Frank Zappa (1940-1993). Those seeds were sown when Vai -- still a student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston -- sent him exacting transcriptions of every instrument within the iconic vocalist, guitarist and bandleader's own complex compositions in the late 1970s. Vai then moved to Los Angeles, where he still lives, to become what Zappa labeled his ensemble's "stunt guitarist" through 1983.
Another answer might be Vai's continuing 40-year solo recording career, launched in 1984 with an audio acid trip called [i]Flex-Able[i]. Or his appearance in director Walter Hill's blues-centric 1986 film [i]Crossroads[i], in which he portrays the Devil's guitarist Jack Butler, and enacts a guitar duel with actor Ralph Macchio's character (with slide guitar parts played by Ry Cooder) for possession of his soul.
Vai was also part of singer David Lee Roth's famed post-Van Halen band from 1985-1989; played on Whitesnake's top-selling 1989 album [i]Slip of the Tongue[i] and subsequent tour, designed Ibanez's JEM and Universe seven-stringed guitars, and founded the Favored Nations recording label with former Guitar Center owner Ray Scherr in 1999.
Then there's the guitar-themed G3 Tour, started in 1996 by fellow guitarist and Long Island native Joe Satriani, a former Vai instructor. The devilish, scene-stealing Vai has been part of more than two-thirds of those tours since, including the early 2024 West Coast reunion of its original lineup, with Texan Eric Johnson as the third featured guitarist.
Friends for more than 50 years, Satriani and Vai make a stop at the Pompano Beach Ampitheater on their duo "Satch-Vai U.S. Tour" on March 23.
"Joe's the best," Vai says by phone from Seattle before a G3 Tour show. "He's a few years older, but he was always very cool and sharing in his guitar lessons. He was strict, and expected you to do what was required, so I always felt like there was someone pulling me up. I can't imagine what my playing, career and life would've been like without those precious lessons from him in my youth. Joe and I are also writing some new music together, and we'll have one song, with a video, that'll be complete before the Satch-Vai Tour to surprise people with live."
[i]Flex-Able[i] was actually recorded on Vai's home eight-track recording console, and considered even by him to be too musically A.D.D. for actual release. But its signature tune, the unevenly-timed instrumental rocker "The Attitude Song," helped make it possible. The song had gotten an overwhelming response from readers of [i]Guitar Player[i] magazine after being inserted as an appropriately flexible disc that could be played on a turntable.
Drummer Chris Frazier (Foreigner, Whitesnake, Edgar Winter, Eddie Money) recorded on that tune along with two other [i]Flex-Able[i] tracks, the instrumental "Viv Woman" and tongue-in-cheek vocal pop number "The Boy/Girl Song." And he matched Vai beat-for-note in the dizzying, Mahavishnu Orchestra-like runs of "The Attitude Song."
"I had just moved to Los Angeles a few weeks before," Frazier says, "and saw an ad in the local 'Music Connection' rag that mentioned a guitar player looking for a drummer familiar with odd time signatures. Steve liked the way I played, so we recorded 'Viv Woman.' Then he said he had something more challenging, which turned out to be 'The Attitude Song.'"
"I haven't played that one in a while," Vai says with a laugh. "It's a bit of a beast. I think I started making that album when I was 22 years old, but my innocence and naivete actually enabled me to be pretty free and do whatever my heart intended. I didn't even know what I was doing in the studio, but was fascinated with the process of recording. Luckily, I had years under my belt with Zappa. He loaned me equipment to record with, and everything I knew had come from just watching him."
As with Zappa, trying to pinpoint a musical genre that Vai fits into is pointless. There's every variation of rock, including the metallic offshoots his Ibanez guitars are famous for representing, but also elements of classical music, blues and jazz, plus Middle Eastern and other world music offshoots. Like his musical mentor, Vai might only play guitar on stages during most live performances, but he's vastly more than a one-dimensional instrumentalist.
"When I was very young, before I started playing guitar, I wanted to be a composer," Vai says. "So I started writing a variety of music through high school as well as becoming a rock 'n' roll guitar player. I have a compositional mind, so even though I can't play piano or drums, I can see the parts in my head and then transcribe or program them. It's not uncommon for composers to create parts they can't necessarily play."
"Then I discovered how difficult and expensive it is to get your music performed by an orchestra. But a friend of mine in Holland, [Zappa author and enthusiast] Co De Kloet, solicits the government for creative projects to benefit Dutch culture. And he raised enough money for me to put on my first concert with the Metropole Orkest over there in 2003. Within a couple years we'd done a few more concerts, which have come out as the two volumes called [i]Sound Theories[i], the moniker I use to release my orchestral music. And I have about four more hours of music on my shelf that I've recorded with them and with the Finnish Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra."
Vai's 1996 release [i]Fire Garden[i] is one case in point regarding his compositional and instrumental dexterity,. And beyond. On his neo-classical, 10-minute "Fire Garden Suite," a four-part instrumental opus with heavy rock undertones, Mike Mangini is credited with drums; Vai with "everything else." Which means he's not only responsible for a wall of different stringed instruments, but also the programming that surrounds his otherworldly guitar figures. The second half of the album features his lead vocals as well.
Mangini was part of Vai's quartet for the 1996 and 1997 G3 Tours, along with bassist Philip Bynoe, who sometimes played a double-neck bass in which the second neck was a keyboard. Its fourth component was another Long Island native, former Satriani student, and ex-Zappa band member Mike Keneally, who wowed crowds by playing stereo guitar parts with Vai (a staple of "The Attitude Song") and adding keyboards and percussion. He even nailed Robert Plant's vocals by singing Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" on some tour stops from that era. Keneally also recorded and toured with Satriani in the 2010s as a guitarist/keyboardist.
Bynoe remains in Vai's current quartet lineup, which is rounded out by second guitarist Dante Frisiello and drummer Jeremy Colson.
"Philip's been in the band for more than 25 years now," Vai says, "and Jeremy's been in it for almost that long. My previous other guitarist, Dave Weiner, recently moved on after 23 years. But he found a replacement in Dante, who was one of his students. Dave taught him all the parts, and he really delivers."
Zappa's career included featuring versatile singing rhythm guitarists like Jeff Simmons, Ike Willis and Ray White before prostate cancer necessitated the bandleader's retirement from touring in the late 1980s. But the maestro also had outside-the-box thinkers as alternate lead guitar foils, a role Vai relished. Adrian Belew would go on to find a lasting home with progressive rock titans King Crimson. And Keneally has blended Zappa's influence with Todd Rundgren's through his progressive pop solo career, and now tours with all-purpose prog-rock tribute act ProgJect. Yet Vai might have gone furthest afield in coming out from under Zappa's long shadow by blending his influence with that of other classically-tinged rock guitarists (Brian May, Ritchie Blackmore), plus the hard-to-define fusion styles of Jeff Beck and Allan Holdsworth.
"There's a rock 'n' roll-type energy to my music, but it's very diverse," says Vai. "My brain has kind of always mixed together rock with compositional music. And what emerges is something I don't otherwise know how to classify."
To say it's a bridge linking Satriani's rock instruction with Zappa's genre-be-damned approach wouldn't be a stretch. Vai's latest release is last year's straight-ahead rocker [i]Vai/Gash[i], a project from the 1990s with vocalist Johnny "Gash" Sombretto that Vai had shelved after the singer died in a motorcycle accident in 1998. Vai's previous album, the 2022 instrumental release [i]Inviolate[i], features Bynoe, Colson, ex-Roth bassist Billy Sheehan and ex-Zappa drummers Terry Bozzio and Vinnie Colaiuta. With Vai on the cover sporting a customized Ibanez triple-necked instrument, it's where most of his current live material is drawn from.
"I'm still in the mode of promoting the music from [i]Inviolate[i]," he says. "I really enjoy playing it, even after touring on it for 194 shows over 19 months in 51 different countries. So there will be a lot of that material, along with a couple back-catalog reaches; whether it's stuff I've never played live before or tunes that'll get resurrected."
Of course, Vai will also perform with Satriani's quartet (rounded out by keyboardist Rai Thistlethwayte, bassist Bryan Beller and drummer Kenny Aronoff) to end the show, a tradition whether on the G3 Tour or otherwise.
"We'll come out at the end and jam on some classic rock songs," says Vai. "It's always nice to get the opportunity to play with other folks like this, because they always help you to up your game. I was going to try to sing 'Crossroads' [the Cream cover of the Robert Johnson blues composition that gave Vai's '86 film its title]. It was a bit out of my vocal range, but Rai, who's quite the musical force to be reckoned with, sings it and nails it."

Scott Henderson story - February issue of Palm Beach Arts Paper

Casual music fans might not recognize the name Scott Henderson (www.scotthenderson.net) -- but area musicians from the 1970s, and fans of jazz/fusion internationally from the 1980s onward, all know the name of the greatest electric musician South Florida ever exported.
The guitarist released his seventh solo album, the self-produced [i]Karnevel![i], on Feb. 2, and has 20 total CDs over the course of his career. And like the others, Henderson's latest is an inimitable fusion of jazz, blues, rock, improvisation and humor.
Born at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Palm Beach in 1954, his otherworldly natural talents overwhelmed the local music programs at Palm Beach Junior (now State) College in Lake Worth and Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Even in talented area acts like the funk ensemble Pure Hell and jazz group Paradise, it was obvious that Henderson was destined to go much further.
In 1980, he did just that by relocating to Los Angeles, where he's lived ever since. Within a few years of the move, he'd recorded and toured with icons like keyboardists Chick Corea (1941-2021) and Joe Zawinul (1932-2007) and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. Henderson also formed the influential jazz/fusion band Tribal Tech, which recorded 10 albums and toured the world from 1984-2014.
His inclusion on the 1985 Ponty album [i]Fables[i], and subsequent touring, came courtesy of one of Henderson's few guitar peers. Legendary Brit Allan Holdsworth (1946-2017) was leaving Ponty's band after touring and appearing on his albums [i]Enigmatic Ocean[i] and [i]Individual Choice[i] between 1977 and 1983. Knowing the violinist needed a replacement, Holdsworth called the Frenchman and glowingly talked Henderson into the gig sight-unseen.
"I was playing with [bassist] Jeff Berlin's band and we opened for Holdsworth," Henderson says by phone from his home in the downtown L.A. neighborhood of Eagle Rock. "Allan recommended me to Jean-Luc, who just took his word for it. I didn't even need to audition. I just started playing with him, and did that for about the next three years."
Additional albums under Henderson's own name started with [i]Dog Party[i] in 1994. [i]Karnevel![i], like its preceding 2019 release [i]People Mover[i], features his highly improvisational trio with younger French musicians Romain Labaye (bass) and Archibald Ligonniere (drums). Adding Polish guitarist Lina Mastalska. who recreates some of Henderson's overdubbed parts live, they embarked as a quartet for a two-month tour through Europe, China and India in mid-February.
"I'm lucky to have them," Henderson says. "It's hard to keep up with them at my age. I was playing so much in Europe a few years ago that I asked for recommendations on European musicians. My agent at the time found Romain through Markbass, the bass amplifier company, and sent me some clips of him playing. Then Romain sent me clips of Archie. I wrote most of the material for the album during the Covid-19 lockdown, and they've added so much since to my initial charts. Some of the album sounds composed, but it's not. It's improvised."
"As for Lina, she's a great blues player and slide guitarist. I like to sometimes overdub higher piano-like voicings, which I can't recreate live in a trio. With her, audiences sometimes get to hear two guitarists playing different voicings of the same chord, which can sound larger and more pianistic."
Such musicality makes [i]Karnevel![i] a feast for the ears. The basic tracks for its 11 Henderson compositions were impressively recorded live in the studio before the guitarist added his array of overdubbed tonal embellishments. The funky "Covid Vaccination" pays tribute to Tower of Power, borrowing from the Oakland, CA band's song "Soul Vaccination" and featuring Labaye and Ligonniere mimmicking the deep rhythmic pocket of its bassist Rocco Prestia (1951-2020) and drummer Dave Garibaldi. Henderson likewise mimics the band's famed horn section by using an array of different effects.
"I used a different pedal for every horn," says Henderson. "There's distortion with a wah-wah pedal for trumpet, a fuzz tone for tenor sax, a different fuzz tone for alto sax, and a pedal called a Trombetta Robotone for trombone."
"Bilge Rat" showcases the blues influence Henderson displayed through his early solo efforts; the high-octane "Sky Coaster" is fusion that's not for the faint of heart, and the gorgeous "Greene Mansion" a first-ever recorded solo guitar piece that would make Wes Montgomery proud.
Few musical artists are capable of similar diversity. And there's not a hint of the syrupy instrumental pop, usually cloaked in saxes, guitars and synthesizers, known as "smooth jazz" (which the guitarist calls "Southern California hot tub jazz"). Henderson's gifts even make the number of strings and frets on his instrument seem practically limiting. Unfortunately for American audiences, they'll seldom hear such performances live other than on occasional club dates. Henderson no longer tours the United States.
"I didn't really decide that," Henderson says. "That decision was kind of made for me when I started working with European musicians, who need a $2,500 work visa to play over here. Which doesn't seem fair, because I don't need a visa to play in Europe. And the money that gigs pay in the U.S., factoring in air or ground travel, gas prices and gear rental, is honestly about one-fifth of what we get overseas. We were lucky to break even here."
Influenced primarily by rock and blues guitarists including Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore and Albert King, the jazz portion of Henderson's jazz/fusion mix primarily involves that genre's improvisational and tongue-in-cheek elements. His three-year stint with the Zawinul Syndicate in the late 1980s became a career highlight because of the improvisation within the Weather Report guru's side project.
Tribal Tech, co-led by fretless electric bass wizard Gary Willis, decreed that humor was paramount -- especially in the group's lengthy final lineup with keyboardist Scott Kinsey and drummer Kirk Covington. On its 1993 album [i]Face First[i], Covington added vocals to the song "Boat Gig" to poke fun at the schmaltz passing for music on most cruise ships. On the following album, 1995's [i]Reality Check[i], the quartet followed up a reverent reading of the jazz chestnut "Stella By Starlight" with a bombastic original sequel called "Stella By Infra-red High Particle Neutron Beam." And in 2000, it released an entirely-improvised album, [i]Rocket Science[i].
Kinsey mastered and played electronic percussion on [i]Karnevel![i], which was recorded by drummer Alan Hertz, who mixed the album with Henderson. Hertz had a lengthy recording and touring tenure with the fusion group Garaj Mahal before working with the guitarist, recording the latest three Henderson releases at Kingsize Soundlabs in L.A. He also played on Henderson's final U.S. tours as well as on his 2015 gem [i]Vibe Station[i].
As a solo artist or sideman, Henderson has also worked with a who's-who of heavyweights, jazz/fusion and otherwise: bassists Berlin, Victor Wooten, John Patitucci and Dave Carpenter; drummers Dennis Chambers, Dave Weckl, Steve Smith and Virgil Donati, vocalist Thelma Houston, saxophonist Albert Wing, and keyboardists Tom Coster and T. Lavitz.
"If wars were fought with notes instead of bullets, Scott would be the guy you'd want on your side," says Charlie Gonzales, singing bassist for longtime South Florida roots rockers The Dillengers.
Yet having that kind of arsenal doesn't mean one always has to use it. Henderson's deep influence on fellow musicians in general, and guitarists in particular, also involves his use of space between notes, along with his phrasing, use of effects, and signature tone, technique, taste and touch. Few other players on any instrument can come as close to exactingly mimicking parts they're hearing in their head, live and in real time.
At a 1997 Tribal Tech show at the Carefree Theater -- now a vacant lot in West Palm Beach after hurricane damage hastened its demolition -- an introduction displayed both Henderson's influence and reasoning behind leaving South Florida's stunted music scene. In attendance was young guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg, a gifted recent University of Miami music grad who's since charted a successful career with a dozen albums under his name and rising star status, especially in Europe.
"Great to meet you, Scott," Kreisberg said. "Do you have any advice for me?"
"Get the hell out of here," Henderson replied.
Kreisberg returned to his native New York City soon thereafter and now lives in Brooklyn. And Henderson's latest South Florida show was back in 2009, when he played at the now-defunct Orange Door in Lake Park with drummer Hertz and former Ponty bassist John Humphrey.
With his online lessons, multiple instructional books and videos, and ongoing students at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, Henderson has practically always been a teacher as well.
"I was a student of Scott's at Chafin MusiCenter in Lake Worth in 1979-1980," says veteran local singer, guitarist and songwriter John Storch. "He'd gone to high school with one of my older sisters and was renting my grandfather's house, so we became friends. I was still in high school then, and Scott would come out to see how I was progressing with our kid band at the time, SST."
Along with songwriting partner and older brother Bill Storch, a fellow singing guitarist, John Storch has since traversed additional rock, roots music, ballet scores and instrumental electronica in ensembles from Lake Worth Beach to Boston and New York City.
"We went to see Scott with Chick Corea when we were living in Boston," he says. "He got us backstage passes, and his playing was absolutely amazing. But he was always mind-blowing. Even when we were in high school, before we'd been exposed to many truly great musicians, we could tell he was a special phenomenon when we saw him play with Paradise."
[i]Karnevel![i], with its carny imagery and theme, was inspired by such visits Henderson has taken with his daughter Angela since becoming a father. It's a reflective look back that's perhaps befitting of such a small town boy who made good -- and one who will turn 70 years old this summer in his adopted hometown, the City of Angels.
"It's hard to believe," the age-defying Henderson says. "Angela is 20 years old now and studying theater at the University of California, Berkeley. She even came up with the CD cover concept of the kid riding a guitar. And I actually still feel like I could do all this for another 20 years, as long as my back doesn't go out from the hotel beds overseas, which sometimes seem like medieval torture devices. Or the flying. But our agent is good at routing us so we usually drive no more than three to four hours gig to gig. The flights here to Europe and back, plus from Europe to China and back, will be the toughest part for me."