I first saw Victor Wooten as part of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones in the early 1990s as part of the incredible HORDE Tour (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere). That band were as amazing as they were unique. I would go on to see them as often as possible after that point. Even then, Wooten stood out as one of the best bass players I'd ever heard. The first Victor Wooten solo show I experienced was in the mid 90s at the tiny (but legendary) Peasant's Cafe in Greenville, NC. The place was sold out in advance (probably oversold based on how tight we were packed in there). Wooten entered through the thick crowd while playing a wireless bass. The crowd parted like the Sea of Galilee as he slowly, funkily made his way to the stage. The fact that he was one of the best bassists ever was reinforced that night. Others obviously think the same thing. He's since won three Bass Player of the Year awards from Bass Player Magazine and Rolling Stone named him one of the Top Ten Bass Players of All Time!
On to the present. Victor Wooten Trio played the Duke Energy Performing Arts Center in Raleigh. The band features Dennis Chambers (Bootsy Collins, Santana) on drums and Bob Franceschini (Mike Stern, Paul Simon, Tito Puente) on sax, flute and other wind instruments. The show kicked off with DC10 from their new album Trypnotyx - played in 10/4 time. Next Victor switched to Acoustic Bass for Liz and Opie also from their new album . Often during the show Wooten would tease popular songs within his own. The first one I recognized was "A Love Supreme" by John Coltrane.
He switched to electric bass and played solo for a bit, looping and layering parts, successfully pulling off a "one man band" scenario. He even wowed the crowd with his signature 360deg move where his body rotates but the bass stays in front - not missing a beat in the process.
Franceschini often used some interesting effects that would add octave harmonies to his sax. One effect that worked well in one tune, played his part back on a slight delay and at an octave higher than he had just played it - very cool.
More teases were mixed in including "Jammin" by Stevie Wonder and "Brick House" by the Commodores - which prompted the audience into a singalong.
At one point the band, except Victor, depart the stage. Suddenly the house lights go up and everyone looks confused, even Victor. It's not time for the show to be over! Then we see a guy in the audience juggling bowling pins - he starts tossing them to Victor and climbs onto the stage. He & Victor proceed to give us a juggling show! The guy's son joins in and many more pins are added to the mix. Yet another skill in Wooten's arsenal. He later mentions that he used to play in a country show at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. While on breaks he would visit his juggler friend, Steve, and learned how to juggle with him.
Wooten also performed with a bow on a unique looking fretless bass. You can get a look at it at about the 2hr50min mark in the video linked below.
The show wrapped up with the appropriately titled "Funky D". Highlighting Wooten and the band's serious funk chops. They came back out for an encore of the crowd favorite "The Lesson". Wooten has also written a book called "The Music Lesson". Now translated into multiple languages, The Music Lesson is currently used as required reading and part of curriculums in study groups, schools, and universities including the prestigious Berklee College of Music and Stanford. The Music Lesson has also been made into an audio book and there a soundtrack. All well worth exploring.
Go see a show! And stick around afterwards and you'll get to meet the master himself! That's my mug with him at the end of the photo gallery.
Liz and Opie
Rice and Beans >
Rice and Beans
Caught in the Act
e: The Lesson
by Lee Crumpton
photos by Justin Barnett