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November 1997

Victor Wooten
What Did He Say?
Compass Records

Bass students from Berklee to the Bass Institute Of Technology and all points inbetween are going to lay with this record for some time to come. Perhaps the preeminent chops monster in the bass world today, Wooten wowed critics with his 1996 debut, A Show Of Hands. Fans of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones had been aware of Wooten's amazing abilities on the four-string electric bass for years but this stunning unaccompanied solo bass showcase drove home the point that Victor was indeed the cat. No one had pushed the envelope on the instrument like Victor since Jaco Pastorius burst onto the scene 20 years ago. Wooten continues to push forward with good humor and unparalleled virtuosity.

His latest is an eclectic offering with an all-star cast of characters supporting Victor in his cause of championing the bottom. Whether he's overdubbing six tracks of bass or just laying it down in real time with a rhythm section, Wooten demonstrates an uncanny command of the instrument and seems to be having a ball in the process. This is one monster who doesn't take himself too seriously.

The title track is a wacky bit of P-Funk-ish buffoonery that is strictly on the one. Victor turns in a lyrical reading of the soul anthem "What You Won't Do For Love" and blows with boppish facility on "Cherokee," performed alongside his brothers Regi on guitar, Joseph on piano and Rudy on alto sax. "A Chance" is his funky Mu-Tron inflected tip-of-the-hat to Bootsy Collins while "Bro John" is a foot- stomping hoedown featuring some slippery fretless lines and a guest appearance by Victor's father Elijah "Pete" Wooten on vocals.

His solo bass rendition of the Lennon-McCartney gem "Norwegian Wood" is a veritable clinic in harmonics, tapping and chording. Elsewhere, Victor updates the gorgeous Coltrane ballad "Naima," a feature for fellow electric bassist and Virginia homey Oteil Burbridge, and offers an affecting, if odd, tribute to Thelonious Monk on "The Loneliest Monk." BŽla Fleck guests on the Celtic-flavored Wooten composition "The Sojourn Of Arjuna" and he showcases his mind-blowing slap chops on "A Little Buzz." Another victory for the bass monster.

Originally published in November 1997
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