Fusion jazz virtuoso Scott Henderson reflected on how much he has to practice these days in order to keep his playing skills in order.
Well-known for his work within the genre, including his band Tribal Tech and Chick Corea Elektric Band, Henderson touched upon the topic while recently appearing in an interview with Sonic Perspectives.
“Yeah, I have to,” Henderson replied when asked whether he practices a lot these days (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs). And even though he’s one of the most impressive jazz fusion musicians out there, he gets rusty and needs to get his chops in order.
“Because if I don’t, stuff starts going out of my head,” he adds. Discussing the matter, the Tribal Tech founder explains how he didn’t have time to practice as much recently due to his work on the upcoming solo album. And his playing suffered. He offered:
“I haven’t been practicing in the last couple of months. Like we were talking about before, the difference between doing a jazz album or doing a produced album like this — you’re doing an album, this kind of record. So much attention is put on the sounds.”
“And I’m there at the mix, I’m there at the mastering, I’m there all the way. So the latter part of the record is more about turning knobs, and it really takes me away from the guitar.”
“For the last month of the record, I was basically an engineer and a producer, not a guitar player,” Scott pointed out. “Now I have to bust my ass and practice a lot just to get my chops back because I’m so rusty. So now I’m practicing, like, five, six hours a day, mainly on the tunes that we’re going to play on the road, but still just practicing and improvising to get my chops back.”
Apart from the new album, Scott Henderson is gearing up for the upcoming tour. So far, he has the second half of February, the entire March, and the first half of April scheduled, covering Europe and Asia. With such an incredibly busy schedule, there’s an expected pressure to get things in order ASAP. “I need to because I’m rusty as hell,” Scott said, but also added that he’ll “be okay.” He then continued, recalling one particular aspect of practicing that he has to focus on:
“I got to play a lot. Sometimes, it’s not about… How can I explain this? Pat Metheny was talking about this one time, not about really practicing what you know already, as far as lines and vocabulary, but just to be able to have an idea and make your fingers go to what you’re thinking without making mistakes.”
But with new material in the setlist, things can get even more challenging. And this is exactly what Scott Henderson is dealing with at the moment.
“Because it’s easy to play the stuff you already know,” he pointed out. “What’s hard to do is play stuff you’ve never played before. And if you hear something in your head, you want to be able to execute it.”
On top of that, as the jazz fusion master that he is, Scott is improvising during his live shows. And he’s not satisfied with the idea of repeating himself show after show. Instead, he prefers to keep things interesting and make every performance as unique as possible. He continued:
“Your fingers need to go to places and do things they haven’t done before. And it’s more important to practice on THAT than anything else. Because sometimes, when you’re on the road and playing every night, it’s very easy to fall in the trap of playing licks that you already know.”
“I mean, we all do it,” he admits. “We have to. We all have a vocabulary, but we try to get out of that vocabulary.” However, as he also added, “The goal is to try to play new things every night.” And the only way to deal with this is to practice as much as you can. He concluded by adding:
“So a good way to do that is just practice doing it, practice having a thought, and see if your fingers can go to that thought. And that type of practice is really important. So that’s what I think is the most important.”
The tour in question is planned to kick off on February 16 with a performance in Jaworki, Poland. Scott’s schedule then goes all the way to April 13, when he’ll be playing in Bangalore, India. For this tour, he’s joined by Romain Labaye on bass, Archibald Ligonnière on drums, and Lina Mastalska supporting on guitar.
Scott Henderson’s new album is titled “Karnevel!” and it’s scheduled to come out on February 2, 2024. This marks the guitar legend’s first record since 2019’s “People Mover.”