Wooten & Clarke
March 13, 2011
Regaled as the most influential bassist since Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten is known for his solo recordings and tours, and as a member of the Grammy-winning supergroup, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones. He is an innovator on the bass guitar, as well as a talented composer, arranger, producer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist.
Continuing the tradition of virtuosity forged by James Brown, Funkadelic and Prince, Victor returned to the road in 2010 with a nonstop acrobatic 21st-century family of funketeers, The Victor Wooten Band. Featuring his brother Regi “The Teacha” Wooten on guitar, his brother Joseph Wooten (Steve Miller Band) on keys and Derico Watson on drums, the band performed songs from Victor’s solo CDs as well as some of greatest soul and funk hits.
The last great hero of the bass, Victor Wooten was born in Idaho to a military family, raised on the island of Oahu and on the West Coast. He received bass lessons at age 3 from his brother, Regi. By the age of 5, he had made his stage debut with his four older brothers, collectively known as The Wootens. The family act spent the ’70s opening for high-profile groups like Curtis Mayfield and War, and eventually settled in Virginia in the early ’80s.
In 1988, Wooten moved to Nashville, where he worked with vocalist Jonell Mosser and met New Grass Revival banjo ace Béla Fleck. Within a year, Fleck, Wooten, Wooten’s brother Roy (a.k.a. Futureman) and Howard Levy formed the Flecktones, and were on their way to their first of three Grammys to date. Wooten continued his bass focus, first forming Bass Extremes, and then releasing his remarkable 1996 solo debut, A Show of Hands.
Wooten’s recording and/or touring credentials quickly expanded to include a range of artists like Branford Marsalis, Dave Matthews, Bruce Hornsby, Prince, Mark O’Connor, Gov’t Mule, Susan Tedeschi, Bill Evans, Vital Tech Tones (with Scott Henderson and Steve Smith).
In addition, Wooten took big steps forward in the field of education, offering music and life lessons though his popular Bass Nature Camps in his home base of Tennessee, and his enlightening novel, The Music Lesson. He currently maintains an ambitious dual solo/sideman pace, regularly recording and touring with the Flecktones (who have released a dozen albums), Mike Stern and Chick Corea’s Elektric Band.
With each new solo CD (six so far), Wooten has expanded his musical focus and knack for genre-uniting via his songwriting, producing and multi-instrumental skills —all while maintaining a stellar level of bass playing. This has never been more evident than on Palmystery, his most recent CD.
Stanley Clarke Band
Stanley Clarke is nothing short of a living legend, having liberated the bass in much the same way that Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker liberated their instruments decades earlier.
Born in Philadelphia, Clarke headed to New York City right after college as a classically trained bass virtuoso. He quickly made his mark on the New York jazz scene by gigging with Stan Getz, Joe Henderson and Horace Silver before joining Getz pianist Chick Corea to form the seminal, Grammy-winning fusion outfit Return to Forever in 1972. As the band took more of an electric focus (with Al Di Meola and Lenny White), Clarke not only split his time between upright and electric bass, but also launched the high-end boutique bass guitar market via his use of custom made Alembic basses.
Taking issue with the narrow perception of the bass as a support rather than solo instrument, Clarke released a string of solo albums, beginning with Children Forever in 1973. The watershed recording, School Days, came three years later, while Clarke pushed the tonal range of the electric bass upward, inventing the piccolo and tenor basses in an effort to speak in the range of his musical hero, John Coltrane.
The late ’80s brought new opportunities, as Clarke was hired to score the TV series Pee Wee’s Playhouse. This led to his first movie score for the film Boyz ’N the Hood, and what has become his second career as an acclaimed film composer. Other notable soundtracks include Passenger 57, What’s Love Got To Do With It?, Poetic Justice, The Transporter and the Showtime series, Soul Food. Of late, he has been on the road with the Clarke/Duke Band, Rite of Strings and McCoy Tyner, as well as his own group.
In 2007, Clarke released Night School, a star-studded DVD tribute concert touching on all aspects of his career, and Toys of Men, his commercially and critically acclaimed war-conscious CD.
His new recording, The Stanley Clarke Band, was released last June. Clarke feels that this album’s music is new and different from just about anything he’s done before. The range of collaborative material here has allowed him to venture to new levels of experimentation utilizing his arsenal of bass instruments.
He compares this new CD to the first three albums of his solo career, Journey to Love, Stanley Clarke and School Days, with long extended electric pieces—a kind of journey. “Everyone played an important role in getting us to our destination,” he says.