STLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Spotlight on Victor Wooten


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This week, we're putting the bass right in your face, as we look at some video clips featuring bassist Victor Wooten, who's returning to St. Louis to perform this coming Thursday, July 5 at the Old Rock House.

Born in 1964 in Virginia, Wooten grew up as one of five brothers in a musical family. As an aspiring musician, he learned from the electric bass innovators of the 1970s, such as Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius and Larry Graham, and picked up on and developed their ideas and techniques successfully enough that as a mature player, he's now often mentioned alongside his influences as being one of the top electric bassists of the post-fusion era.

Wooten was in St. Louis most recently in March at the Sheldon Concert Hall, playing with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones; his last show here under his own name was in 2009 at the Pageant in a duo gig drummer J.D. Blair. And while he's still known for being a founding member of the Flecktones, Wooten also has been putting out solo albums since 1996, with a half-dozen releases so far as a leader.

His next effort, which comes out in September, actually will be two CDs offering different versions of the same group of original songs; Words & Tones will feature female singers interpreting Wooten's material, while Sword & Stone offers all-instrumental versions of those same songs, with alternate arrangements, solos and personnel. Besides his solo work and the Flecktones, Wooten also has been involved in various other projects over the years, playing with pianist Chick Corea's Elektrik Band, Vital Tech Tones and Bass Extremes, and touring and recording with fellow bassists Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller under the moniker SMV.

Given the opportunity, though, Wooten's technique is such that he can sound almost like a whole band all by himself, playing bass notes, chords and melodies at more or less the same time. In some ways, it's similar to what guitarist Charlie Hunter does, and like Hunter, Wooten often works in a duo format, the better to show off his chops without having to worry about sharing space with other musicians.

For next Thursday's show, the Old Rock House website specifically mentions the Victor Wooten Band, another of the bassist's projects that featuring his brothers Regi and Joseph Wooten on guitar and keyboards, respectively, plus Derico Watson on drums. However, that same blurb also makes reference to a 2010 tour, which suggests that it may have been taken from some older press material. Meanwhile, a recent wire story about Wooten's current activities lists the band's personnel as including both Watson and J.D. Blair, plus bassists Anthony Wellington, Steve Bailey and Dave Welsch, all of whom contributed to Wooten's upcoming CDs.

Today, however, we're going to concentrate on Wooten himself, starting in the first video up above, where you can see a half-hour's worth of one of his duo gigs with J.D. Blair in an clip that's undated (but fairly recent) and was recorded in Lucerne, France.

Down below, we've got four clips of Wooten playing solo. There's a version of Stevie Wonder's “Isn't She Lovely," taped in April during a master class at a Virginia music school. Below that is Wooten's take on the gospel standard “Amazing Grace," recorded in 2010 at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) trade show. Then there are two videos of Wooten doing some more free-form jamming, first in a video demo for EMG pickups and then at a gig in Budapest.

Finally, for those who may have wondered about the specifics of some of Wooten's techniques, our last clip today is an hour-long, in-depth instructional video featuring him demonstrating and discussing a number of his technical ideas and musical concepts.

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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