Through conversation and demonstration of his consummate musical prowess, Victor Wooten proves time and time again that he is one of the most informed and enlightened figures in music.
On the road promoting the indefatigable new record, TRYPNOTYX, Wooten stopped by the Clive Davis Theater at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles on September 27 to speak about his indelible sound and demonstrate why he is widely regarded by many as the best living bassist.
“When ideas are flowing ask yourself, ‘What does your body feel like?’,” said Wooten in explaining his process of finding inspiration for new material. “You have to find a way to re-invent that feeling and then generate it again.”
In conversation with Scott Goldman at the Clive Davis Theater, Wooten extoled wisdom about the nature of human syncopation with music, as well as his incredibly varied and prolific resume as a musician.
Leading perhaps an unconventional path to a prolific career and status as a virtuoso, Wooten explained that his upbringing impacted the way that he would later define his sound.
Wooten explained that he owed a great deal of his ingenuity to his brothers, who were constantly redefining their sounds and stretching the limits of what an instrument could do in the Wooten Brothers Band, an outfit created when Wooten was 6.
“When you grew up poor in this country during different times for black people, you had to think outside the box,” said Wooten.
Now touring in support of his latest record, Trypnotyx, with Dennis Chambers and Bob Franceschini, Wooten admits that a great deal of his sound finds influence within the perimeters of the newly-formed trio rather than furthering his own sound.
Taking a cue from a well-known bandleader that he has spent time with over the course of 30 years, Wooten said that leading a band does not necessarily mean overseeing complete control.
“What I learned from Bela (Fleck) was that he called himself a leader among equals,” said Wooten. “I follow the same suit. I always offer the guys the opportunity to change the set. I’ll bend my preference in order for a decision to feel like a band preference.”
In explaining the virtues of incorporating the needs of the band, Wooten also spoke to the supreme level of mindfulness that he extols to musicians and music fans alike.
“When I talk about being mindful, I’m talking about handling to the focus you have in life now,” said Wooten. “Goals are good – but we need to take care of the present. Practice small successes every day and you make success a habit.”
In wrapping up the interview, Wooten glided towards his instruments with an indistinguishable magnetism.
In simply picking up the bass, Wooten interacted with the instrument with an indescribably natural grace, seemingly allowing it to rest before he addressed the audience.
“By a show of hands, how many of you are musicians?” asked Wooten of the crowd, readying his equipment.
With the majority of the crowd raising their hands, Wooten nodded and proceeded to speak to the concertgoers.
“Tell me some words that you would use to describe music,” said Wooten to the audience as he prepared for his set. “And don’t tell me words that you think I would want to hear. Just tell me the first thing that comes to mind.”
The audience responded with words such as “happiness,” “nature,”, “bliss,” and other positive adjectives as Wooten listened on stage.
“It’s funny, none of you said words like chord, note, key signature – not even an instrument,” said Wooten, “and most of you are musicians.
Wooten went on to explain that the words that the crowd used to describe music are the true signifiers and essence of music, rather than any technical assignments that may have evolved over the years.
With the concept of mindful musicianship and equally mindful listening fresh in the minds of everyone involved, Wooten proceeded to take the audience on a supremely cosmic journey.
Performing an unfiltered and poignantly raw set, Wooten was dutiful to take give his very own take on a music lesson, rather than taking the time to explicitly showcase the new record.
A freeform interpretation of the markedly joyous feelings that Wooten was no doubt experiencing, the Clive Davis Theater was in awe of the effortless nature of his playing as well as the ability to transcend the nature of a standard set.
Interweaving familiar codas of his own songs as well as familiar tunes such as “Norwegian Wood”, Wooten was clearly more invested in the experience of the bass rather than pleasing any artiface of setlist wish fulfilment.
Capping off the night with a solo performance of “I Saw God,” Wooten channeled a spiritual figure, or at the very least, one of profound wisdom in his craft.