In a time when the word “fusion” describes instrumental rock and roll (and “jazz” is routinely applied to guys like Kenny G and Fourplay), Tribal Tech stands out like a diamondback in a pile of cotton balls. The original fusion of the early 70s wedded musical complexity to raw energy, in the process becoming jazz’s answer to acid rock; Tribal Tech retains most of the idiom’s virtues with few of the drawbacks. On their new album, Face First (Bluemoon), they spend a few tracks incorporating some different sounds: the album includes their first song with lyrics, for example, and another with a decidedly southern-rock feel. But the dominant influence remains the legendary fusion band Weather Report–and thank the electronic heavens for that. Linkages abound. Bassist Gary Willis, one of Tribal Tech’s two principals, has captured the sound and also much of the rhythmic jump that Jaco Pastorius brought to the Report; his partner, guitar hero Scott Henderson–in whom improvisational craft regularly supersedes technical flash–boasts a more direct connection, having worked with Weather Report cofounder Joe Zawinul for several years. (Perhaps he passed on some of what he’s learned to keyboardist Scott Kinsy, who uncannily mimics many of Zawinul’s patented synth patches.) In contrast to that other stuff masquerading as fusion, Tech’s music has an urgency–a need to escape–that has always distinguished the great players of jazz and rock. Tuesday, 9 PM, China Club, 616 W. Fulton; 466-0400 or 466-0812.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Nathaniel Welch.