Victor Wooten: Sword and Stone
While not necessarily a household name, there’s no denying the impact that Victor Wooten has had on the contemporary jazz world, for fellow bassists and listeners alike. The New York native is an acclaimed bassist and the winner of five Grammy awards. Beyond his work with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, he’s worked with fellow bass legends Marcus Miller and Stanley Clark under the collective name SMV to release an album called Thunder. Oh, and he also wrote a book. Did I mention that part?
Now that you know, you might find the new album to be a good introduction to the many talents and insights Victor Wooten has to offer the world. (I know I did.) The title track is mellow and wandering, followed with the upbeat, almost whimsical jazz number, “Love Is My Favorite Word.” Citing himself as a spiritual person but claiming that “God is too big for any one religion,” the next track is entitled “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” and is easily carried by Victor’s signature slap bass style.
Perhaps the most refreshing thing about an album like this is that he showcases his wide range of abilities as a songwriter and bassist without showing off. Stylistically, one can hear many influences, from calypso to progressive to funk. “Say Word” and “Brooklyn” have a sort of urban slickness to them, the latter with slightly fuzzy bass acting as the “vocals.” “Still Your Baby” is straight-up R&B with bubbly synths and a fierce but simple bass groove.
No matter how you try to categorize each song, there are many layers of raw sound and melody, creating an impressive audio collage. Victor experiments without intimidating, and innovates without bragging, which, in this day and age, is good to hear.