Victor Wooten, The Mobius, Ashland, OR- 4/30
Victor Wooten quieted a room packed wall to wall with people all staring at the stage moving their heads in time like herons watching a reluctant sunset bounce against the horizon, drawn into the music for the music itself. It was a real treat to see such deep, raw talent, energy, and shining support for one another on stage in a close, intimate setting. They played an elaborate story, a musical adventure, a funky fairy tale. But great music tells itself. It was simple. It went like this
The full moon dipped to rhythms of palpitated funk seeping through walls of a lone building lit in skeleton brightness housing Wootens masterful heartbeats. Occasional strands of soul-heavy funk sprinkled the alleyways like bugs splattered against a highway windshield. They started off slow, steady and with intention. The music thickened the air; it turned the lights up and down. They sparked the attention of the sold-out crowd with sound thread through microscopic eyelets, funky and energetic in a patient wave rolling over the masses, drawing us in with something unique, unusual, a reflection that catches your eye, so you stop, and find you cant turn away.
Epitomizing his music, Victor sang, Do I have to dye my hair? Shake my butt? Take off my clothes? Curse to get your attention? It wasnt a showy crescendo of high-wailing guitar riffs (though there were some). It wasnt face melting, momentum rock (though Regi Wooten on the guitar did a fantastic Hendrix rendition). But they tossed that in later after establishing themselves as soulful artists with something real to say and fingers and bodies able to bend over backwards to get it out just right.
Sandra Williams powerful voice got under my skin and filled the room. It didnt blow open doors; it worked its way into the rounded blue walls where it pried the building open like a heartbeat breaking free. Victor joined on vocals, somehow managing to not sound egotistical as he sang his name again and again, My name is Victor. The rest of the band struggled with an identity crisis as they provided back-up vocals.
Sandra gave momentum a respite singing a sensual rendition of, Summertime, which transitioned into a soulful, Aint No Sunshine. Her voice echoed in dark places where acoustics retire and age like fine cheese.
Derico Watson wrangled the energy back up with a drum solofast burst, growl, Ha! he yelled, then dipped into quiet cymbal tinkle-twinkle fairy steps, quieter and quieter, with the same intensity. People clapped, thinking hed led himself to an end, but the moon wasnt so easily fooled. It heard the delicate notes, earth whispers, talking to the beats in layers of silence under the clutter of noise. Victor glowed at him. The clapping stopped, the crescendo rose and he picked back up into Victors story.
Joseph Wooten floated over the keys in ethereal waves then played the keyboard like a drum. Tap, tap, flick fingers moved in waves, each digit its own tributary flowing in a larger current. Anthony Wellington, on electric bass, hijacked the show, demanding some B minor funk. The tempo and energy exploded as he, Victor and Sandra danced a side step while Anthony spoke the tempo up into a funky tidal wave yelling, Jump. The room moved as a single, joyful, jumping organism of reverent music hopheads.
Regi Wooten took the lead playing his bright orange guitar. He picked a classical symphony along the instruments arm, reverberating sounds through the pedals at his feetan entirely different story from the loose wrist strumming he fashioned a moment ago. Fast, flying like a toaster in a bathtub, a delicate, intricate, hard finger marathon ran over his starfish-shaped guitar as he launched into Hendrix momentum playing, Fire. The guitar swirled over his shoulder. He caught it as it circled back and kept playing, running in place, his arm flying in turbulent free-fall against the frets, loving it. He slid orange and pink fluffy hair-ties up and down the arm of his guitar, corralling the sound, creating a new instrument with each shift. Child-like chimes squeezed out of his instrument, more poignant for the memory of fire still vibrating along the strings, then quickly returned to flamea subtle layer of the chimes remaining under this new tempo. Victor watched, curious. Regi moved the hair-ties and tapped between frets, making his own drum set, flying his hands away, tapping the strings, the knobs, silence. Laughter. Sandra widened the landscape of their music back to a range of horizons you have to squint to see with a slow, heartfelt song, everything coming out smooth. Then they all left, leaving Victor alone with his bass, and the show we all came to see.
With a slight, precise, touch of his fingers along the frets the notes fell away like musical lepers into opal depths of bass resonancewhere they rippled. Like the Russian toy of blocks held together by rows of thin fabric, the music tumbled out, sensitive, dying to bleed their music onto Victors hands.
From this sleepy dream state echo of divine notes woven in the fine silk of a spiders web, Victor spun a Spanish guitar tempo. Whoa! snuck out of the mans mouth standing on the chair at my side, genuinely surprised by this shift of fingers flying at unimaginable momentum yet landing precisely, with ease, no hurry in a well-planned symphony of fire dance Salsa duels. Then without warning he slid into delicate sounds, squeezing the frets in soft pulses, pinching the sides, gentle, pulling delicate notes into spiral explosions. His arm flew wide, in a graceful loop like a golfers follow-through arching through the sky painting rainbows in soft, gentle, single notes pulled away without pluck. He breathed in time with the music, adding vocal accompaniment with his exhalations.
The quiet crowd watched in awe as his hands, just as easily, flew to fire and pluck, swaying as if over a Baby Grand gliding to the big climax in waves up and down the bass arm, but hitting individual notes with each digit along the way, twice. His hands circled in sweeps, tornados, whirlpools, flushing over his strings, keys, whatever they were at this point; it was no longer clear.
The high momentum wave calmed and Victor plucked a single string. Music fell out, tumbling to his feet, it must have been a weight-bearing note. One note again, one man, no fingers moved and still a little ditty fell out. I imagine it was a pre-recorded loop, but imagination is a wily beast and I also imagine Victor Wooten has developed his craft to the extent that his music has begun to spawn itself. Hell soon be breeding whole bass note families, growing on their own, expanding into treetop communes trickling over the world in raindrops of rhythm and funk. I hope they spawn quickly.