Concert Review: Victor Wooten Slaps Some Bass in Portland

Victor Wooten brought his eclectic taste in music to a packed Aladdin Theater on Wednesday night in Portland.

The iconic and arguably finest bassist in music today had a full band as he played a string of jazz, funk, jazzfunk, a little bit of rock and an ounce of gospel into a smorgasbord of songs including pieces from his latest 31-track album The Music Lesson.

In the short first half, about 45 minutes, Wooten’s bass was in fine form but actually overshadowed a bit by his brother Regi Wooten who is equally adept on the guitar and the beautiful vocals of Krystal Peterson who also sang a few numbers from her forth coming album. Peterson brought the smoothest voice you’d ever hear with a range that any pop star today could only dream of having. The giant personality that is Victor Wooten – he beamed a contagious smile all evening thumping along on his bass occasionally showing the audience of things to come.

After an annoyingly long intermission of nearly 40 minutes, keyboardist Karlton Taylor emerged and played Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the piano before the rest of the band settled in. The second half featured a bit more jazzy songs, again with Peterson taking the lead on vocals and after 30 minutes Wooten was left alone on stage to do exactly what the majority of the audience was hoping for.

With some help from added sound effects all created using his bass, Wooten spent nearly 20 minutes just playing bass. Sometimes jaw dropping, other times a bit tedious with what seemed like Wooten simply screwing around in a practice room at home, nevertheless he certainly united a room full of bass players or simply made them depressed after displaying what takes even the talented a lifetime of practice to learn.

Wooten’s bass guitar is more a third appendage and his dexterity in filing up and down the fret board is a wonder to watch. His ability to create such dynamic sounds from a bass guitar that sometimes come across like a child simply smashing fingers all over the guitar but then you realize, there’s actually a melody and purpose there.

His version of “Amazing Grace” was a stand-out, he brought emotion with an ode to his daughter in “Ari’s Eyes,” showcased a new recording in “Brooklyn” and “Me and My Bass Guitar” was a blast. During his 20 minute long bass solo he managed to make church bell sounds emanate from his guitar along with a bunch of other sounds no amateur would ever believe came from four strings.

Wooten returned with his band for an encore which for any rocker turned out to be the best part of the evening. The energy was high, the pace was brisk and Wooten slapped his bass like nobody’s business. The absolutely fun “What Did He Say”  the title track from his 1997 album might be repetitive on lyrics but just an awesome dancing beat that got everybody off their seats. The closer “Victa” from 2005’s Soul Circus was short as promised but showcased a great sense of humor.

Wooten’s band proved tight and he certainly surrounds himself with solid musicians. Drummer Derico Watson pounded out a few short solos though he seemed hindered by such a small set but he kept time well for the rest of the band. Brother Wooten took center stage a few times once with an almost psychedelic solo and he and Victor even traded instruments once, though just for a short jam, and the best part was the two held up their corresponding instruments for the other to play and they did it together.