The Victor Wooten Trio
There are few electric bass guitarists since the creative heyday of Jaco Pastorius four decades ago that have created a more distinctive, influential and popular sound than Victor Wooten.
For many, Wooten’s prominence came not through his own projects but through a 30-year alliance with banjo innovator Bela Fleck and his ongoing fusion-funk ensemble The Flecktones. Through that band, Wooten’s agility, speed and undeniable sense of soul have given the electric bass a voice not just as a rhythmic device but as a lead instrument. Any Flecktone album will give you a crash course into Wooten’s musical ingenuity, as well as his flexibility as a jazz and funk stylist. But the record that really provides insight was the Flecktones’ fourth album, “Three Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Released in 1993, it remains the only recording the band released as a trio. As such, Wooten’s playing has never been more prominent. In fact, the album-opening Wooten original “Vix 9” is a fascinating snapshot of the bassist’s already-scholarly prowess as it shifts from clean, warp-speed runs with Fleck to a serene refrain where an ultra-cool bassline simulates, of all things, the introductory bass melody to John Coltrane’s epic “A Love Supreme.”
Fast forward nearly 25 years and we have a tune called “Dc10” that kicks off a new album called “Trypnotyx” that Wooten has cut with his current trio mates Bob Franceschini on saxophone and Dennis Chambers on drums. It’s an insane mash-up of trip hop-ish production, bop-ish glee (courtesy of Franceschini), a ferociously restless groove (maintained by Chambers) and a glossary of soul, funk and tough-knuckled jazz chops from Wooten that highlight him more as an orchestrator than as a monster soloist. Fans shouldn’t worry, though, as there are all kinds of tunes where Wooten the bass beast is unleashed, including the merry funk party piece “Liz & Opie,” the sleeker “Caught in the Act” and the album’s immensely efficient title tune.
But Flecktones fans should take note. “Trypnotyx” (and, in all likelihood, the Wooten Trio’s Memorial Day concert at Cosmic Charlie’s) is very much a band album instead of a star vehicle for an acclaimed soloist. Of course, when you have players with the kinds of dossiers the other trio members possess, highlighting an ensemble sound is a major plus.
Franceschini has toured alongside Paul Simon, Chaka Khan and George Benson among others while his recording credits include sessions with Celine Dion, Tower of Power and Mike Stern.
In Chambers, Wooten has a drummer who cut multiple albums with jazz guitar titans John McLaughlin and John Scofield. But he has also maintained the mighty P-Funk groove in Parliament-Funkadelic between 1978 and 1985. Anyone unfamiliar with his work needs to check out a Youtube video of Chambers’ 2011 performance of the Meters’ “Cissy Strut” on the Late Show with David Letterman. It luxuriates in the kind of jazz-funk grind that drives Wooten’s trio today.
The unofficial first weekend of summer wouldn’t be complete without the return of Blues Between the Bridges, the annual gathering of blues and roots-minded artists from around the block and around the world at Proud Mary Honky Tonk BBQ, 9079 Old Richmond Rd. on May 27 (12:30 p.m., $10).
The full lineup includes Lexington favorite Tee Dee Young and the Australian harmonica-didgeridoo duo Harper and the Midwest Kind (the event’s co-headlining acts) with Louisville soul/blues/jazz stylist (and Blues Between the Bridges mainstay) Robbie Bartlett, Nashville blues-rockers The Beat Daddys and zydeco ensemble Zydegator.
For more info, go to Gbusyblues.com.
But wait, there’s more
▪ A ridiculously full Memorial Day weekend gets underway tonight, May 25, at Willie’s Locally Known, 286 Southland Dr., with the return of the David Mayfield Parade. A mix of psychedelic country, abstract folk and rootsy reflection make up Mayfield’s fine 2014 album “Strangers.” His forthcoming record, though, is a collection of bluegrass originals produced by famed banjo player Alison Brown (9:30 p.m.; $10). Tickets are available at Willieslocallyknown.com.
▪ You may have thought “Yippie Ki Yay” was forever the property of Bruce Willis, thanks to the “Die Hard” movies. But get a hold of Nikki Lane’s siren call of the phrase over a groove that mixes honky tonk soul and ambient cool at the onset of “700,000 Rednecks.” It’s the leadoff tune to Lane’s splendid 2017 album “Highway Queen” as well as ample reason to take in her Lexington return show May 27 at The Burl, 375 Thompson Road. For tickets, go to Theburlky.com (8 p.m.; $15).