Tone Center Records

Guitarist and producer (as well as author of GP’s Spotlight columns throughout the years) Mike Varney envisioned a label dedicated to guitar-based jazz and fusion back in 1982, but other interests kept him from realizing his dream for nearly two decades. In 1999, Varney and drummer Steve Smith partnered to found Tone Center Records, which has released more than 50 albums since its inception.

“I was inspired by labels such as Blue Note and CTI,” explains Varney. “Our goal is to put really excellent players together to make great sessions—just like they did in the ’60s and ’70s.”

Scott Henderson, Steve Smith & Victor Wooten, Vital Tech Tones
This musically adventurous, chops-packed label debut features Tribal Tech guitar ace Scott Henderson, Vital Information drummer Steve Smith, and Flectones bassis Victor Wooten.

Steve Khan, The Green Field
Khan is joined by drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist John Pattitucci. Percussionists such as Manolo Badrena lend global touches to music that is contemporary sounding, yet firmly rooted in the jazz tradition.

Jing Chi, 3D
Robben Ford augments his blues bag with extensive jazz and atmospheric elements, while blending brilliantly with bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Vinnie Coliauta.

Michael Landau Group, Live
This double live album captures the ubiquitous session and sideman center stage with a stellar band, performing a blues/rock/fusion amalgam that emphasizes clever songwriting and superb guitar craftsmanship.

Chambers, Berlin, Fiuczynski, Lavitz, Boston T Party
This improvisational tour de force is centered around the unorthodox, trailblazing style of Dave Fiuczynski on fretted and fretless guitars. Fiuczynski is joined by T Lavitz on keys, Jeff Berlin on bass, and Dennis Chambers on drums.

The Royal Dan
A Steely Dan homage with guests such as Steve Lukather, Steve Morse, Frank Gambale, Al Di Meola, and Elliot Randall having a ball with the progressive pop group’s songbook.

A Guitar Supreme
Eric Johnson, Mike Stern, Greg Howe, and Larry Coryell are among the luminaries who pay respect by putting their signature spins on Coltrane’s classics.

Visions of an Inner Mounting Apocalypse
A Mahavishnu Orchestra/John McLaughlin tribute featuring jam-band monsters Jimmy Herring and Warren Haynes, along with Mike Stern, John Abercrombie, Greg Howe, and others.

Viva Carlos!
Eric Gales, Coco Montoya, and a host of others contribute to this nod to Carlos Santana. Mike Stern deftly navigating odd metric and key modulations on “Oye Como Va” is a highlight.

Fusion For Miles
This disc is subtitled “A Bitchin’ Brew,” and with players such as Bill Frisell, Bill Connors, Steve Kimock, and Pat Martino among the soloists, it’s easy to see why. Every track is great, but Frisell’s reworking of “Nefertiti,” and Connors’ spatial take on “Eighty One,” are exceptional.