Tribal Tech Takes Electric Excursions Back to Campfire Days : Jazz: The band, which plays Monday at Hamptons in Santa Ana, is also democratic enough to make its sets 'fun to play,' as well as worth the listen.

Those countries trying to establish themselves as new democracies well might take a lesson from guitarist Scott Henderson and his band, Tribal Tech.

"We just had a major band meeting the other night," Henderson, 35, said last week from his home in Highland Park. "Everybody was calling me and complaining about one of my pieces, saying it was boring to play."

Though half the members of Tribal Tech have been in the group less than a month (keyboardist John Beasley and drummer Joey Heredia have joined Henderson and bassist Gary Willis), Henderson listened.

"I'm going to delete some material" from the song, he said, "make it more fun to play. We're always trying to open up the music." The band plays at Hamptons in Santa Ana on Monday night.

Henderson has plenty of empathy for the sideman's role: He has been there. Currently a member Joe Zawinul's Zawinul Syndicate, he has also played with the likes of Chick Corea (who, he said, "has got more rhythm in him than any musician I've ever met") and Jean-Luc Ponty.

"He's a great player," Henderson said of the French violinist, "but playing that music every night is no fun for the musicians. When someone's soloing . . . you have a part to play, just like a sequencer. It's so inhuman.

"I think it's stupid for a band to be one person's concept only," Henderson continued. "It's boring for the other musicians. We're just using my name because I have the highest visibility right now."

In any case, there's more than democratic ideals behind Tribal Tech. The band's latest album, "Nomad," on the Relativity label, is an electric excursion into jazz, rock and world-beat, a thick, rhythmic mix whose melodic lines echo such better-known bands as Corea's and Zawinul's. Henderson's title cut and another of his pieces called "Rituals" both could provide a perfect soundtrack for the record's cover art: a group of Indians sitting around a fire listening to a shiny, futuristic Robocop figure in a headdress.

"The tribal part of our band isn't so much tribal but traditional," Henderson said. "Seeing a mix of the old and the new is a favorite thing of mine, something that's really romantic for me. I just went to Tokyo--it's my favorite city--and it's like that there. You see the old culture mixed in with just tons of neon, like that 'Blade Runner' thing."

Henderson said Zawinul's sound has had an impact on his own. But, he added: "I'm trying not to let him influence me too much. I don't want the band to be a Weather Report clone. And I don't think it ever could, because there's too much rock 'n' roll influence in my background."

Henderson wasn't hearing John Coltrane and Wes Montgomery around the house while he was growing up. "No, man, I heard Led Zeppelin, I grew up listening to rock 'n' roll. I didn't even listen to jazz until I was 22 or 23 years old."

Like a lot of guys, he admitted that when he first picked up a guitar, back in the 10th grade, he was trying to impress girls.

Although the first jazz album he heard was drummer Billy Cobham's 1973 rock-influenced "Spectrum," he quickly moved on. "I'd have to say the fusion thing influenced me the least, was just a steppingstone that led to straight ahead," he said. "The change was real fast for me. I discovered the old Miles Davis albums with Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams. It's still my favorite jazz band ever."

He has no misconceptions about the type of music he plays. "I was talking to John Patitucci once on the Chick Corea tour bus," Henderson said, "and he was saying how he hated fusion and that he didn't want to be in a fusion band. I was thinking, 'Man, that's what you're in right now.'

"A lot of musicians have a real hatred of that word. You can't really blame them, because there are so many lame fusion bands. But I think fusion is the perfect word for what we do.

"We're not straight ahead, we're not rock. We're influenced by R&B; and funk. I'm influenced heavily by (former Deep Purple guitarist) Ritchie Blackmore, (guitarists) Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, the cats that I grew up listening to. That's what fusion is, a mixing of one or more elements. But because we're a fusion band, it doesn't mean we're lame."

The new band is working on an album ("Nomad" was recorded in 1988) and hopes to tour later this spring before Henderson goes on the road with Zawinul. Meanwhile, the struggle for musical liberation continues.

"We're headed a bit more into the improvisation side of things," Henderson said. "We're less structured live than on the record. A lot of people aren't aware of what a struggle it is for a musician to maintain a balance between freedom and structure. It's like the guy who wants to be single and, at the same time, wants to be married. It's a constant battle."

Scott Henderson and Tribal Tech play Monday at 8 p.m. at Hamptons, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana. Tickets: $19.50. Information: (714) 979-5511.

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