Victor Wooten - Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale - October 5

Better than: Claiming you were there when, clearly, you weren't.

"The gig's going really well. I mean really well. The crowd is going wild -- people are dancing, yelling, and applauding loudly after every song, and the house is packed. There's someone who looks to be a talent agent in the back. The whole band is having a great night, hitting every groove, pulling off every little detail to make it right.

"The guitarist thinks, 'We're going to be famous. I'm going to be famous! Everyone's going to know my name. I'm going to have a lot of sex.'

"The drummer thinks, 'We're going to be rich. So rich. I'm going to buy a ton of gear.'

"The singer/rhythm guitarist thinks, 'This is wonderful. I can finally support my designer drug habit.'

"The bassist thinks, 'G - D - C - D - G.'"

-- The Prairie Home Companion Pretty Good Joke Book, Vols. 1 - 4, 1996. 

See also:
- Béla Fleck and the Flecktones' Bassist Victor Wooten on Stephen Hawking: "The Quality of His Voice Does Not Diminish Who He Can Be"

That's a funny, safe-for-work joke, but a complete and total polar opposite of what went down at the Culture Room this past Friday when Victor Wooten and friends took over the stage.

To say that the bass guitar is an explicitly relegated instrument of rhythm is wrong. This wasn't so much a show as it was an extreme showcase of what the instrument, in the right hands, can do.

In a mixed crowd of jazz enthusiasts, progressive college kids, and some funky "devil may care" divas, Wooten and company did jazz right by mixing originals with pop standards (Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, etc.) in a way that was so seamless, it almost felt like a jam session at his house. That's a true mark of craftsmanship; when a stage filled with some of the jazz scene's hottest talents give it all out without competing with one another for attention and rather, build on their strengths, you've got yourself a show you'll be talking about for maybe ever.

And talk about it I will. As per our interview with him, Wooten's a humble man, completely devoted to his craft. He wholeheartedly understands the power of music, and moreover, understands that he is not alone in this game. Case in point, one of the better aspects of a jazz show is listening to the musicians speak between tracks. Wooten has performed with drummer JD Blair for more than 20 years now, but nothing is as affirmative to the power of their friendship and professional relationship as when Victor announced that JD would be leaving the tour soon to join Shania Twain in Vegas.

JD Blair was recently revealed as the "Country Drummer of the Year," but as Victor put it, this "young brother from the hood" is as versatile as they come. And it doesn't even stop there; also onstage was the incredibly talented and recently appointed chair of the bass department at the Berklee School of Music, Steve Bailey, whom Victor lovingly referred to as the "Dumbledore" of the bass guitar. How can you have so many larger-than-life talents in one room and not end in a bloodbath is a testament to the quality of music these guys bring to the scene.

It is also important to note that relative newcomer Krystal Peterson was a dynamite addition to the lineup. A spring-heeled jack with pixie flair who belted the songs these dudes could not reign in on, she managed to grand-marshal the proceedings with true charisma and chutzpah. And my God, the rest of the band! Derico Watson, Dave Welsch, and Anthony Wellington! All maestros in their own right, seamlessly weaving in and out of instruments like it was playtime and not a serious gig!

That's the point, isn't it? The fact that all of these musicians, masters of their own domains, were able to perform to a captivated crowd like they were alone in their rooms shooting the shit is what makes it that much more special! This was the real deal. This was music made by an ad hoc army of kindred spirits, who, on the surface, were riding along with you, enjoying it themselves, for the first time.

Critic's Notebook

Random detail: The Culture Room did a great job of harnessing the individual instruments so the sound was incredibly clean. Kudos to the sound staff!

Personal bias: I love seeing people dance in the middle of hallways, in front of restroom doors, and, quite frankly, as they make their way down a staircase, with three drinks in hand.

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