Bass Extremes: Just Add Water – Victor Wooten and Steve Bailey
Tone Center 40192
Let’s face it, usually guitarists or lead singers receive all the
recognition while the rhythm section goes relatively unnoticed. Of course,
with an audience that holds groove to a more desirable degree than riffs,
bassists find the spotlight within the jam band scene.
What could have been an ego-driven excursion equaling guitar wank is,
thankfully, an exciting recording that displays the melodic possibilities of
the often-unheralded instrument. The latest collaboration by bassists Victor
Wooten and Steve Bailey can be found in the form of Bass Extremes: Just
Water, the sequel to 1998’s Cookbook.
Wooten is a known commodity for his work with Bela Fleck and the
Flecktones as well as his solo releases; most recently Live in
America. But, as the saying goes, they make beautiful music together. A
strong fixture to make this a grand escapade of sound is drummer Dennis
Chambers. His work contains its own inventive strengths while never
outshining the proposed stars of the show.
Also aiding in this endeavor are several guest bassists including Oteil
Burbridge, John Patitucci and Billy Sheehan. What makes each person’s
contribution interesting is that their backgrounds – rock and jazz – allow
them to color the material with something reflective of their known
It’s understandable that, for most people, the prospect of two bassists
going at it within the dimensions of a song, let alone 13 of them, is met
with a polite, "No thanks," and a quick exit out the door. This is where
Just Add Water works best. The fluidity of Wooten and Bailey plus
ability to switch roles of lead and support gives the material a bouncy,
upbeat flavor while framing it within enough melody that the album moves
with the warmth of a jazz fusion trio. Sheehan’s presence (and effects)
makes "Rapid Descent" more like a hard rock trio.
The two wrote all the songs but one. That lone song – "Portrait of Tracy"
by Jaco Pastorius – allows them to pay tribute to a bass explorer whose
was extinguished long before it should have been. It’s a nice nod to the
instrument coming out from behind the shadows, while the rest of Just Add
Water shows the progression fortified over the years and a good reason
it doesn’t need to go hiding again.