Supergroups and collaborations are among the most beloved occurrences in music. Few things are better than when several of your favorite artists work on and release a project together. Case in point—HBC, the eponymous debut from Scott Henderson, Jeff Berlin, and Dennis Chambers. Full of jazz fusion techniques and timbres, it’s a thoroughly exciting listen that their respective fans, as well as any genre enthusiasts, should enjoy.
Each member of the trio has already built up a steady reputation for himself. Guitarist Henderson has recorded with many notable artists, including Chick Corea, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Joe Zawinul (Weather Report), while bassist Berlin has received praise from many successful artists, including Carlos Santana and Geddy Lee (Rush). He was even asked to join Van Halen. Finally, drummer Chambers has lent his percussive skills to Steely Dan, Parliament-Funkadelic, Santana, and the Brecker Brothers.
Of the collaboration, Henderson says, “Jeff and I have always had a very high level of communication when we play together, and putting Dennis in the mix notches it up even higher. “ Likewise, Berlin comments, “We pretty much have the same vision of how three strong players should sound together. We function well on many levels; we’re friends and love to hang. We’re also individually dedicated to high standards of playing.” Judging by the power and cohesiveness of HBC, it’s fair to say that the trio performs perfectly.
“Actual Proof” starts things off with great technique, as Chambers’ incredible syncopation is complemented with equally complex bass playing. Henderson adds a few funky riffs for counterpoint, too, and he definitely takes charge during his solos and riffs. Near the end, Berlin steals the spotlight for a bit with even more fancy playing. It’s clear from the start that these three musicians play with shared enthusiasm and direction.
Elsewhere, “Mysterious Traveler” is, well, more enigmatic, as its colors are a bit spacey and otherworldly. It’s a much fiercer and more crunchy track overall. “D Flat Waltz” is sort of like a more conventional and classically arranged take on its predecessor, while “The Orphan” is extremely atmospheric and dreamy, especially with the childlike voices repeatedly saying, “No more”; in fact, it almost sounds like a different band, which is very impressive.
“Wayward Son of Devil Boy” brings back the towering intensity and proficiency, as Henderson continues to wail on his six-string baby. It’s provides an arresting yet admirable contrast to “Threedom,” which is sort of like a guitar/bass battle full of arpeggios. Chambers’ is absent, too, which may be why it’s the mellowest track here. Finally, album closer “Stratus” impresses with its dynamics, as each member belts out his best stuff amidst calmer moments. In essence, the contributions are weighted more because of how they interrupt the underlying tranquility.
HBC is an extremely impressive debut from three of the genre’s best musicians. Although it can feel a bit monotonous if heard straight through, the sheer confidence and direction with which the trio plays is enough to make the record quite lively and fresh. If you’re a fan of this sound, there’s no reason not to revel in this record.