Whether it’s through his music or other life interests, Victor Wooten is constantly looking for ways to innovate and make the world a better, more interesting place.
As the bass player for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones for nearly 30 years, Wooten has helped his bandmates crumble the boundaries between jazz, bluegrass, and more to create new sounds. As a solo artist, he’s continued to chisel between different musical styles. That is most evident on his tenth album “TRYPNOTYX,” which came out in September and is his first album in five years. It finds him embracing a trio format with drummer Dennis Chambers and saxophonist Bob Franceschini.
The Victor Wooten Trio
Featuring Dennis Chambers and Bob Franceschini
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5
Where: City Winery, 1200 West Randolph Street
For many, he’s a one-of-a-kind musician. Rolling Stone called him “one of the Top 10 Bassists of All Time” and readers of Bass Player magazine voted him as “Bassist of the Year” three separate times in their long-running online poll. In February the Huffington Post named him as one of “50 Iconic Black Trailblazers.”
Wooten is proud that he’s accomplished these things being true to who he is.
“I’m the youngest of five brothers, and our parents let us know early on that awards and things like that come from other people. It’s who we are to ourselves that really speak our truth,” Wooten says. “So, I have to make sure I’m happy myself and that I love who I am. And that I’m honest with myself and keep striving to get better.”
When he was younger, playing bass was a way to hang out with his older brothers. He started playing shows at the age of five with their family band, the Wooten Brothers, which opened for acts like Curtis Mayfield and War. In the years since, he’s realized the impact of his instrument.
“Playing bass allowed me to do things with [my brothers] but also carry my own load because I had my own role,” he says. “As I started getting older and really looking at the bass, I realized, ‘wow, the whole purpose of this instrument is to serve other people.’ The whole reason for the bass being invented was to lay a foundation that other instruments can stand upon. So, it’s literally an instrument of service. And I’ve grown to love it for that reason.”
As he grew up, he realized that, playing the bass needed to “benefit more than just me. … I learned how to focus my efforts and energies on more than myself and making sure I could help people with what I was doing,” he says.
Of his current trio lineup, Wooten says: “They’re two of my favorite musicians. In the beginning I thought it was going to be a quartet, but after playing with them I realized we didn’t really need the fourth member and it would be special if we could pull it off with just the three of us. Those two are like chameleons to me. Whatever music you put in front of them, they will make it sound good.”
“Whereas a lot of my records are really centered around me and a lot of bass melodies and things, I wanted this record to be a band record, to be a trio,” he continues. “So, you really get equal attention from each member.”
Besides being a musician, Wooten is a teacher, author, acrobat, magician and skilled naturalist. He’s glad that he has had a positive impact on people, regardless if they’re a musician or not.
“I’m doing things that make me happy and I think can help others,” he says. “That’s what I was taught as a kid.”
He has no plans to stop from his innovative ways in the years ahead.
“When I can blend different styles of music, I feel it makes me happy but also makes the listener happy,” he says. “People like variety. It’s what makes life what it is. And so, I want to make sure my music follows suit.”
Joshua Miller is a local freelance writer.