Photo of S.M.V. by Steven Parke

10 things you ought to know about Victor Wooten

In this edition of "10 things" we talk with jazz bassist extraordinare Victor Wooten about working with his idols (Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller), Christmas with The Flecktones and early childhood education:

  1. The new record Thunder by S.M.V., which features Wooten playing with jazz bass legends Clarke and Miller, is essentially the result of an award: "[Bass Player] Magazine was presenting Stanley Clarke with a lifetime achievement award and they asked Marcus Miller and myself to present the award to Stanley. After we gave him that award we got a chance to go on stage and join Stanley for his famous song 'School Days.' After that we just realized, 'Okay, this is too much fun, it was too easy, it was too good, we got to do it for real now.'"

  2. The band's name, S.M.V., has nothing to do with the acronym for Slow Moving Vehicle: "That's just our initials; Stanley, Marcus and Victor."

  3. This new project sees Wooten standing as an equal beside two players who had considerable influence on his formative years: "Totally a dream; these two guys I've been listening to for a long, long time."

  4. Coming from a very musical family, Wooten started his musical career while still in diapers and had started on bass by age three: "What my brother ended up doing is taking two of the stings off one of his guitars and that was my first bass; just playing the low strings of a guitar."

  5. Wooten is often cited saying "the bass makes no music ... you do": "Whenever people think about learning to play an instrument they focus on the instrument, and there's a lot more to playing an instrument than just the instrument. My brothers started me playing well before three. The same way a child learns to speak a language, like English, you're learning to speak long before three. If you couldn't speak by the time you're three you're considered 'slow' and we know that there's a problem. So music's really not that much different; it's just the physicality of the instrument by the time you get there."

  6. An anomaly among jazz musicians, Wooten thinks understanding theory is not a necessary to learn how to play: "In English you learn to talk first and then learn the rules later, and we also understand that to learn to speak English well you can't reverse that process. You can't learn the rules first and learn to speak later. The rules don't make sense until you can speak. But a lot of people start out in music trying to learn to read it, and to me that just doesn't make sense."

  7. In April, Wooten released Palmystery, his sixth album as a leader, featuring guest appearances by such notable names as Mike Stern and Keb' Mo': "A lot of my friends, a lot of people I just called and asked them if they'd do it and they said yes, so that was a plus for me."

  8. Having started playing with family (he first performed with the Wootens at the tender age of five opening for acts like Curtis Mayfield and War), Victor still plays a lot with his siblings: "When I play with my own band I take two of my brothers with me."

  9. As soon as he's done with the S.M.V. tour in Europe this October, Wooten will be jetting off to South America to kick off a tour with one of his more well-known projects, Béla Fleck and The Flecktones: "I finish the year with them. We have a Christmas record [Jingle All the Way] coming out in November. It's very interesting. To me, it's one of our best records."

  10. So what's going to be different about X-mas with The Flecktones?: "We do 'The Twelve Days of Christmas.' The first is in the time signature of one, the second day is in the time signature of two, and so forth, but it also goes up a half-step each time."

Victor Wooten will be onstage with Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller (performing collectively as S.M.V. in support of their album Thunder) at Sound Academy (11 Polson).

Photo of S.M.V. by Steven Parke

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