can’t see the forest

The Brothers Wooten

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Entertainment, funk, Music, Music Videos, R&B by Curtis on 1/21/07

Why would I travel a hundred miles to sit drinking beer for a few hours in a smoky Nashville bar, only to turn right back around and arrive home at 3 a.m. with an 8 o’clock class looming just over the eastern horizon?

Regi Wooten and the Wooten Brothers Band, that’s why.  This übermusical band-of-brothers has been entertaining audiences since childhood, racking up experience points with the likes of the great Curtis Mayfield before striking out on careers of their own.

Victor Wooten, the clan’s most famous son, is widely considered to be one of the foremost working bassists today or in any day, for that matter. With his incredible musical sensitivity and an eye-popping, failsafe technique, Vic can put on an astounding show with nothing more than his lonesome—and maybe a drummer. He credits his brother Regi and bassists Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, and Larry Graham as major influences, and his main gig in recent years has been with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, a challenging and rewarding (but quite danceable) jazz-bluegrass-fusion ensemble whose music you mustn’t let pass you by whether in the flesh or on record.

Joseph Wooten (“Hands of Soul, Voice of Gold”) is an astute keyboardist and a winsome vocalist whose touring credits include, among others, the Steve Miller Band. This gentleman is a master of all musical idioms with a warm and easy stage presence that defies description.

Rudi Wooten is the family sax-man, routinely defying the laws of physics by playing two saxes simultaneously and certainly unafraid to challenge Kenny G’s questionable record for World’s Longest Note on any given night. If that doesn’t get you going, just try frowning through his vocals on the Mayfield classic “Freddie’s Dead.” Just try. 

Roy “FutureMan” Wooten is a deft and spicy percussionist from far in the future, graciously taking time from his intergalactic schedule to stop by 21st Century Earth to enlighten us with his unique presence. He plays a mean set, but you’re most likely to catch him with his Synth-Axe Drumitar, a MIDI-driven guitar-like instrument through which he can amply lay down any and every groove imaginable. It’s a cliché but it’s the truth: you gotta see it to believe it.

The oldest wolf in the pack is guitarist-extraordinaire Regi ‘Arpeggio’ Wooten. He’s known as ‘The Teacha’ because, when the Wooten lads were young tykes milling restlessly around their home in Hawaii, it is rumored to have been Regi who started it all. Beginning on a brokedown ukelele and progressing to an electric guitar, Regi taught himself and then his brothers all about The Funk. A multi-instrumentalist and a musical genius, Regi opened the door through which would emerge a family of musical prodigies that is, in no uncertain terms, an international treasure. Regi’s signature style of guitar playing includes laying down accompaniments of smooth, silky, sophisticated chords; tunefully tapping out melodies and harmonies on the fretboard of his instrument as if it were a piano keyboard; rhythmically thumping complex patterns of pops and pings and bops and bings; and, on occasion, turning the volume up to 11.9 for a nuclear-powered wailing solo replete with classic Chuck Berry-esque licks and his own brand of hair-raising outer space noises. Enjoy the show, but don’t let him fool you—Regi is a musician of the highest caliber with knowledge and skills far deeper than hinted by some of the fantastically fun gimmicks that keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

The Wootens credit their musicianship, their diligence, and their infectious smiles to their parents, who always encouraged them to do their best and to be resourceful under any circumstances. If they can stop dancing for long enough, those good folks must be proud now.

Their busy independent schedules mean that it’s a tricky matter to catch all of the Wootens together on the same stage—but Regi and his band are at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville, Tennessee practically every Wednesday night by 10 p.m. or so and the music doesn’t stop until the wee hours of the morning.  If you’re not able to catch them live, you’d be well-advised to check out their discographies (Live in America, one of Vic’s live compilations featuring several of the brothers, is a must-listen.) One of the best things about the Wooten Brothers’ shows is that you never know what’s going to happen—and there’s no telling who might stop by to pick a tune or two. I always leave the venue with two thumbs high in the air (and wishin’ for a third.)

For a taste of Wooten, check out the video below.  This is from a NYC performance featuring Regi and Vic (excellent percussionist unknown) and features a Wooten trademark—the “thump-off”—but I’ll let them explain that. Running time is about 11 minutes.

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4 Responses

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  1. peoplesgeography said, on 1/25/07 at 3:30 am

    Funky … very enjoyable clip. Hard to stay still even in one’s chair! :D The guitar thumping was extraordinary. I liked their camaraderie as much as their obvious virtuosity. Thanks for introducing the Wooton Brothers; sounds like a worthwhile trip out to see them!

  2. Curtis said, on 1/29/07 at 1:37 am

    Very glad you enjoyed them—it’s a real treat to have them relatively close at hand.

  3. Bluebear2 said, on 2/3/07 at 9:13 pm

    For tons of live Bela Fleck shows to download – go to:

    http://www.archive.org/details/etree

  4. Curtis said, on 2/7/07 at 6:03 am

    Thanks for the link, BB! I’ve been a fan of archive.org for a little while now, but I tend to forget about it in spells and you’ve reoriented me this morning. Everyone should know about it, IMHO.


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