Funky jazz trio performs in Enterprise
Wooten, ranked among the best bass guitarists in the world, along with drummer Dennis Chambers and saxophonist Bob Franceschini, form the Victor Wooten Trio. They are touring this fall in support of the recently released album “TRYPNOTYX.”
One of the founding members of “Béla Fleck and the Flecktones,” Wooten said he became a Nashville-based musician in 1987 by accident while on a trip to see his friend fiddler Curt Story.
“Curt was born and raised in Nashville and he knew everyone — Béla Fleck, Mark O’Connor, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Edgar Meyer,” Wooten said. “One thing led to another, I was asked to sub for a bass player and I never left.”
Not only did he end up in Nashville by mistake, but in a band with bluegrass roots, “Bela Fleck and the Flecktones,” a far cry from the Motown influence of his youth.
“When I first met Béla he was approached to do a TV show called the “Lonesome Pine
Special,” an hour-long show on Béla and whatever he wanted to do,” Wooten said.
Fleck wanted to put together a band to play more progressive bluegrass.
“We had just met and he asked me to play bass,” Wooten said.
Fleck lined up a harmonica player and pianist he met at the Winnipeg Folkfest and when they needed a drummer, Wooten suggested his brother Roy, known to Flecktone fans as “Future Man.” The Flecktones were born.
Wooten was in Newport News, Virginia, recently performing three shows with the Virginia Symphony. He said violinist Connie Ellisor, a fellow Nashville musician, asked him to write a concerto for electric bass and orchestra. The result is a piece he calls “Bass Whisperer.”
Wooten, known for progressive styling in many genres, was the bass player for the family band “The Wooten Brothers.” He turned 6 while the boys were touring with Curtis Mayfield. He got his introduction to classical music and formal training in the sixth grade when he signed up to play the cello in the school orchestra.
“My thinking was I was too small for stand-up bass so I chose cello,” Wooten said. “I learned to read music as well and it was my introduction into classical music.”
Today, Wooten’s music pushes beyond the boundaries of conventional classical, jazz and bluegrass, whether it’s combining bass guitar and orchestral instruments or looping conversations with his children into songs on “TRYPNOTX.”
As a teacher, Wooten works outside of traditional methods as well. He said he was in front of a group of kids 10 years old and younger. Instead of playing a song by the Flecktones they wouldn’t recognize or showing them some fancy technique, he wrote a song with them.
“I asked this one little girl, ‘What are you drinking?” and she said, ‘A smoothie.’ I asked, ‘What kind of smoothie?’ She said, ‘I don’t know,’” Wooten said.
The whole group started reciting these simple lyrics and added rhythm. Before long, the kids were singing their new song.
“It’s all how you relate to them,” Wooten said.
He also brings a non-traditional aspect to music as a guest instructor at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“The one thing I bring to Berklee is an approach that is not academic,” Wooten said.
At 2 years old, Wooten said he picked up a toy guitar and started strumming along with his older brothers’ jam session and has been playing ever since — first in the Wooten Brothers Band and later a force to be reckoned with as one of the greatest living bass guitar players who rolls from funk to soul, jazz, classical, bluegrass and rock and roll.
He likened his own experience with music with learning to speak.
“I have different ways of looking at music, sort of like if you were teaching an English speaking class — you would have a different approach than someone who learned English in school,” Wooten said. “The same way a baby is learning English — it’s not about speaking English; you are making sounds and communicating and your parents learn how you communicate and know what you are saying, English comes later. I was strumming an instrument; the bass came a little later.”
The Victor Wooten Trio plays the OK Theatre 7 p.m. Oct. 3. Tickets are available at M. Crow and Company in Lostine, The Dollar Stretcher in Enterprise, Joseph Hardware in Joseph and online at www.eventbrite.com.