story of Victor Wooten is closely connected with the GRAMMY-winning
supergroup, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones. As a longtime member of the
group and under the influence of genius and bandleader Béla Fleck he
developed his incredible mastership and technique as one of the
premier bass players worldwide. It's naturally that further bass
mentors were Stanley Clarke, Larry Graham and Bootsy Collins. After
Show of Hands, in 1996 Victor recorded What Did He Say?
(1997), Yin-Yang (1999 ), the two-disc Live In America
(2001 ), Soul Circus (2005) and now Palmystery (2008).
Victor comments the title of his new album: "A
song is just an idea until someone brings it into the world,” he says.
“That’s the great mystery of music or any creative endeavor. The power
is in the palm of your hand. You just have to release it to the
world.” Guest musicians on his new album are Mike Stern, Richard
Bona, Keb’ Mo’ and several others. But not the names of the musicians
are important. It's the idea, the concept, the process of creation.
“It doesn’t matter how you go about writing songs,” says Wooten. “The
music is coming from somewhere. If we think it’s our brain, or some
strictly intellectual source, I would say we’re mistaken. Sometimes
the songs show up quickly, almost completely. That’s when you realize,
‘Wow, I didn’t even write this song. It happened on its own.’ But
whether it comes together in 30 minutes or several months, it’s coming
from the same place. Call it what you want to – spirituality,
mysticism, whatever – that energy is there. The musician is the
conduit that enables that energy to enter the world.”
After such great philosophical words let's have a glimpse on this
fantastic album. With the introducing piece Timers Victor
immediately clarifies his position as top notch bass player and
excellent composer. The arrangement reminds me of structures and
arrangements I observed in Joe Zawinul's work. It's jazz fusion with a
popular appeal. Serious but attractive. Ingenious the entry of Howard
Levy on harmonica. Howard was a founding member of the Béla Fleck &
the Flecktones and is a longtime friend of Victor.
Gambo is a piece of galactic dimension.
macabodacius assimilation of human language by filters and presets
makes me speechless. Joseph Wooten on keys is a sorcerer and Derico
Watson on bongos drummed by sticks, what a hell of sound tight
adroitness and swiftness. Really men, you give me a whack. The future
of contemporary jazz looks bright.
South Africa's Township Jive, originated from the
townships around Johannesburg, is a fertile ground for I Saw God,
an uplifting narration featuring Richard Bona. Victor comments: “This
was one of those songs that just came to me one day. It turned out to
be one of the songs that everyone was talking about after our shows
were over. I think it’s a powerful piece of music. It’s going to make
people think and ask questions. And it might even make some die-hard
religious people a little nervous. To me, that’s exactly what some
music should do.”
Victor Wooten's Bass/Nature reunion camp in the
Montgomery Bell State Park is legend. Many have experienced this
feeling of nature and music. Now having visited this school, we enjoy The Lesson, a special Flamenco
experience. Get some flava from Andalusia.
Left, Right & Center starts with a jazz
fusion theme before flooding into a melodious river, just to turn back
to fusion arcades. Foremost this a drummer's song, JD Blair (The
Groove Regulator), Will Kennedy and Dennis Chambers are sharing the
drum sets. Neal Evans spreads his fingers on a Hammond B3, Mike Stern
on his guitar and Victor Wooten on his Fender bass. This is an
energetic pack, full of tension and vitality.
Starting with smooth strings Sifu
reveals a complex inner life. Sifu (師傅 - Chinese word for master) Brian
Edwards was in Victor Wooten bass camp 2002, renting now his vocals to
this song. Shawn "Thunder" Wallace, a professor of music at The Ohio
State University, adds his fantastic alto sax, Mike Stern his
well-known guitar riffs, Morocco-born Amir Ali decorates the tune with
his Arabian vocals (Check out his album Mina!).
Miss U is featuring The Lee Boys (Alwin
Lee, Derrick Lee and Keith Lee) and especially Saundra Williams, a
fine, dark skinned, lanky dreadlocked chanteuse. The
Lee Boys are one of America’s finest African-American sacred steel
ensembles. Along with their three nephews, Roosevelt Collier (pedal
steel guitar), Alvin Cordy Jr. (7-string bass) and Earl Walker (drums)
they heated a variety of venues ranging from intimate club settings to
performing arts centers to large festival stages.. The musical genre
is rooted in Gospel, but infused with rhythm and blues, jazz, rock,
funk, hip-hop, country and ideas from other nations.
Victor has dedicated the tune Flex to his
longtime band mate Anthony "Flex" Wellington. He is since 1999 in
Victor's band and also teaches bass in Victor's bass camp besides his
own academy. Of course this tune mirrors the power of both bass
The Gospel presents Victor's family with the help of a
snippet from an old Southern Baptist hymn sung by Wooten’s mother. “I
recorded her singing it to me over the telephone and it just happened
to fit into the song perfectly,” says Wooten. “I had my aunts and
uncles sing along to give it the genuine sound. My brother Joseph
added the second section. We recruited the younger generation of
relatives to sing on that section. It’s a bringing together of the old
and the new.”
Song For My Father was released by Horace
Silver in 1964 on Blue Note and became Silver's most popular
composition. Steely Dan's "Rikky Don't Loose That Number" was also
influenced by this song. Wooten's rendition just shares the melody
with the original walking deep into Hard Bop, Swing and Funk.
With the uplifting Happy Song Victor
enjoys the smooth jazz community. The song has still his quality by
Victor's excellent soloing along the melody. The final Us2
featuring Victor Wooten on slide bass and Keb' Mo' on slide guitar is
a real song of magical beauty. “I thought of Keb’ when I first
wrote this song,” says Wooten. “He added the grit that the song
needed. I also play slide bass on this one, which creates a unique
blend of the two sounds. Us 2 shows a softer side of my
playing, and I like how it leaves you in a peaceful place at the end
of the record.”
Victor has reached with Palmystery the summit of his bass
mastership. It's no surprise that after Stanley Clarke Victor joined
the Heads Up International. Hopefully for a long time.