Victor Wooten | 12.3.05

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The Circus has no shortage of talent, featuring two of Wooten’s brothers, Regi on guitar (whom Wooten affectionately refers to as “the Teacher”) and Joseph on keyboard.

 

Mississippi Nights, St. Louis

I don’t think I have ever been to a concert that overwhelmed me with such a mass of talent as Victor Wooten and the Soul Circus at Mississippi Nights. There are very few people who can pull off a three-hour concert, but he seized my undivided attention throughout. Wooten and his posse perfectly blend badass virtuosity with soulful musicianship.

The concert was at the tail end of a tour promoting Soul Circus, Wooten’s fifth solo album. And while the CD itself, though extremely well executed, sounds a little bit like the soundtrack to a porno, the live version’s sex appeal lies in the group’s extremely dynamic stage presence and musical ability rather than its musical ambience. Let me warn you that the following verbiage will not adeptly capture the experience of this show; the words “awesome” or even “freakin’ sweet” just seem lacking.

Wooten, who is most famous for playing bass with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, split the concert into two sections. In the first half, he was accompanied by the Soul Circus, whose style is a combination of soul and funk, with some jazz and hip-hop elements. The audience, which consisted mostly of white men familiar with Wooten’s work with the Flecktones, felt the funk and danced shamelessly to the music. Wooten generally would first play the head of a song, take one of his famous, jaw-dropping solos—sometimes he is portrayed as an octopus, since his solos sound like he has eight arms—and then the rest of the musicians onstage would follow his lead. The Circus has no shortage of talent, featuring two of Wooten’s brothers, Regi on guitar (whom Wooten affectionately refers to as “the Teacher”) and Joseph on keyboard. Rounding out the lineup are Derico Watson on drums, MC Divinity rapping (at one point, he took center stage to rap and play bass at the same time), Anthony Wellington on backup bass, and Saundra “the Voice” Williams on vocals.

After a virtuosic keyboard interlude from Joseph, Wooten brought his other two brothers onto the stage, and the five of them switched into fusion mode for the remainder of the show. I kept thinking, “Their mother must be so proud.” As it turns out, neither Mama nor Papa Wooten is especially musical, but each Wooten spawn shows incredible genius and prowess over his instrument. Rudy Wooten demonstrated the art of playing two saxophones at once—even during his solos—but while the spectacle was impressive, I would have preferred to see him play more complicated lines on just one sax. Roy “Futureman” Wooten (whom you may also recognize from Béla Fleck and the Flecktones) took over on drums, blowing the audience away with a solo that was too complicated for most of us to fully appreciate. Then, as if I wasn’t already convinced of the Wooten boys’ talent, the five of them dropped their instruments and broke into song a cappella.

Perhaps the most appealing thing about Wooten is his respect for other musicians. He watched in admiration as the other musicians soloed, and toward the end of the show, sent his bass into the audience and let a couple young guys play. It was nice to see that Wooten’s greatness hasn’t gone to his head; he still seems like a humble, likeable guy, which to me is just as important as his music.

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