The Victor Wooten Trio
When I heard that Victor Wooten was playing the Granada I have to admit, I kind of fanboyed. The fact that Bob Franceschini and Dennis Chambers were part of the act only made the idea of an already perfect show into complete nirvana. When I had the chance, and the honor, to review such exceptional and legendary musicians, I jumped at it. To hear this trio live was an experience I would never have missed. If you missed it, I do hope you get a chance to see them in the future. You will not regret it.
When I arrived at the Granada I was met with a sign that read “No Videos or Photos. No Cell Phones”. From what I understood, the Victor Wooten Trio would be performing unreleased material, thus the reason for the restriction. So, sadly, I have no performance shots for you, but I do have photographs of the group after the show. We will get to that later.
What made the show exceptional is that it was not at all like any other concert. No one showed up to just hear some music. The Victor Wooten Trio are musician’s musicians: true aficionados. Almost every fan I met was a musician. There were the expected backgrounds in jazz or funk, but there were also metal musicians, and other genres, in the crowd as well. The age of the fans ranged from children to the elderly. This was a versatile and eclectic fanbase, and the Trio poured out the musical love in appreciation.
When Victor is on stage, you are mesmerized by his music. He performs in a way that makes you feel you are the only person in the audience. When he looked over the crowd, it felt as if his eyes locked with yours. He makes an already intimate show that much more personal. Some of the fans around me swore he was looking directly at them while he played. His fingers flying up and down the bass were entrancing, and sometimes they were no more than a blur.
The musicians played off each other, as they riffed from one number to the next. Laughing about it later, Wooten said, “I just follow the drums. Sometimes, I don’t know where he is going, but it works out.” The audience would agree. Franceschini also had some great finger flying moments on the saxophone. One of the highlights was on a tune where fingers slowed, and Franceschini’s notes melted with Wooten’s bass in a meditation called, “Zenergy.” Great pairings between flute and bass were also on the buffet of melodic trances. Wooten several times broke out some gorgeous harmonics that were simply ethereal, and left you felling as though you were hearing music from another planet.
High energy tunes were also braided throughout the two 75 minute sets. Midway through the first set the Trio busted into some Brick House, seamlessly flowing into Smooth Criminal. The fans erupted with cheers and dancing. Blues riffs, and classical funk seemed to always bring cheers. Chambers and Wooten engaged in several drum and bass breakdowns that built a stairway to high intensity battles. Chambers had several spotlights where he showed his chops. At the break, one fellow drummer remarked, “I am closer to his high hat than he is.” He told how Chambers let him show a double headed drum stick to his wife. “I gave it back, but my friends told me he would have let me keep it.” He was ecstatic as he recounted his interaction, and on a fan high.
As the second set neared its close Victor played alone. As he played “My Life” the crowd sang along and cheered, participating in the performance and becoming part of the show itself. And that was the theme of the evening; the intimacy between the musicians and their audience. The love between the fans and the artists was more than tangible. Throughout the show the fans would shout out statements of love and humor to the trio, and the group would reciprocate in kind. It was amazing and refreshing to see that connection. That intimate dynamic between the musicians, and their audience filled with musicians, did not end there. It was seen throughout the performance, and after, as musicians gathered around the members of the Trio to have instruments signed, and to talk about how their musical journeys had been inspired by the expertise of the Trio.
I met Victor Wooten in the back hall of the Granada. I was standing outside waiting for the trio to come out, hoping to get some shots and maybe a simple interview. The back door opened and Mr. Wooten himself called me in. I introduced myself and handed him a card, then asked for a few shots. He was more than happy to let me take them. We went back into the auditorium, and I watched as he conversed with his fans, and fellow musicians.
I asked Victor what he enjoyed the most about touring. He answered “The people. It’s always the people.”
When asked about the upcoming album Victor Wooten said “It’s fun. Good music. More than just chops.” “There is chops,” Wooten said with a sly smile, “but it’s really good music.” It’s Wooten, of course there would be chops.
Franceschini recounted stories from the road. It seems this intimate partnership between Trio fans and the artists was not unique to the Granada performance. “We just played three shows in Colorado; sold out every night in a thousand-seat venue.” When asked if the vibe was the same, Franceschini said “Absolutely. Lots of love.” He went on to discuss the give and take between audience and musician, and how it becomes like a dance, or making love. I asked, “Kind of like, ‘Oh, you like that, so I ‘ll give you some more,’ type deal?” “Exactly,” Franceschini said.
The Trio will be touring on and off through September. They were soon on their way to Tennessee. Lucky, Tennessee.
Listening to the Victor Wooten Trio was like having a conversation with God. You don’t necessarily need to understand all of it, you just know it’s special, and you will emerge changed for the better.