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There are those who believe jazz is the devil's music. However, many artists have used this music to express their spirituality and reverence for God. Bassist Victor Wooten is among those, presenting that side of himself with Palmystery.
Wooten is a husband and father of four, as well as the youngest of the five Wooten Brothers. The group performed on the West Coast, opening for such acts as Curtis Mayfield and War. Wooten's influences on the bass include Stanley Clarke, Larry Graham and Bootsy Collins. Wooten spent several years as a member of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and helped the band earn its first Grammy Award.
Palmystery features Wooten with an ever-changing lineup of side musicians and vocalists, including his brothers and other members of the family. The music contains elements of jazz, funk, gospel, African and other soundssometimes in various combinations.
"2 Timers" employs two drummers, Derico Watson and J.D. Blair, who set the pace as the music volleys back and forth between 3/4 and 4/4 time. The players all shine on this energetic trackincluding Joseph Wooten, keyboards and piano; former Flecktone, Howard Levy, harmonica; Eric Silver, violin and mandolin; and the horn trio as well.
Wooten has the vocal lead on "I Saw God," a story told to an African rhythm. He is wonderfully assisted by the enigmatic Richard Bona, Saundra Williams, Chuck Rainey, Amir Ali, Daniel Hunt and members of the Wooten family. Although this song is rhythm-driven, there is plenty more to admire, principly from Victor Wooten. He is in top form as a lyricist here as the song unfolds. And his work on bass is, predictably, of a very high order.
"The Lesson" is a duet between Wooten and his brother, Roy who joins in on cajon and hand claps. Aptly titled, this track is a a textbook feature of the bassist's speed and accuracy. "Left, Right & Center" features three drummers: Blair, Dennis Chambers and Will Kennedy. But it is guitarist Mike Stern who carries the lead, with Neal Evans providing the heavy undertones of the Hammond B3 organ. Wooten takes a largely back seat behind Stern's lead and both deliver a smoking jam!
Eleven of the twelve tracks on Palmystery are Victor Wooten originals, but he shares writing credits on a couple of tracks with Amir Ali and Joseph Wooten, respectively. Some of these are recent charts, worked into the recent Wooten tour. The lone cover is Horace Silver's "Song for My Father."
Wooten says he rarely completes a song that he writes, welcoming guest musicians to interpret his music their way. On Palmystery, they certainly catch the spirit. And that is what makes this music truly enjoyable and memorable.
Track Listing: 2 Timers; Combo; I saw God; The Lesson; Left, Right & Center; Sifu; Miss U; Flex; The Gospel; Song for my Father; Happy Song; Us 2
Personnel: Victor Wooten: bass, lead vocals (2), hand claps (4), vocals (9), slide bass (7, 12), tenor bass (8), drum programming (12); Derico Watson: drums (1-3, 8, 10); J.D. Blair: drums (1, 5, 6); Joseph Wooten: keyboards (1-3, 6-9, 11, 12), piano (1), organ (7), vocals (9); Howard Levy: harmonica (1); Jeff Coffin: tenor sax (1, 9), baritone sax (9); Rod McGaha: trumpet (1, 9); Barry Green: trombone (1, 9); Eric Silver: violin (1), mandolin (1); Anthony Wellington: bass (2, 8); Regi Wooten: guitar (2, 8, 10, 11); Amir Ali: vocals (2, 3, 6), violin (2, 8), lute (2), darbouka (2); Saundra Williams: vocals (2, 3, 7); Richard Bona: vocals (3), percussion (3); Chuck Rainey: vocals (3), Adam Wooten: vocals (3); Holly Wooten: vocals (3); Kaila Wooten: vocals (3); Daniel Hunt: vocals (3); Roy Wooten: cajon (4, 6), shakers (4), hand claps (4); Dennis Chambers: drums (5); Will Kennedy: drums (5, 9); Mike Stern: guitar (5, 6); Neal Evans: organ (5, 9); Shawn Wallace: alto sax (6); Darrell Tibbs: percussion (6, 10); James Jackson: congas (6); Alvin Chea: vocals (6); Sifu Brian Edwards: vocals (6); Alvin Cordy: bass (7); Earl Walker: drums (7); Roosevelt Collier: pedal steel guitar (7); Alvin Lee: guitar (7); Derrick Lee: vocals (7); Keith Lee: vocals (7); Rudy Wooten: alto sax (9, 11); Dorothy Wooten: vocals (9); Doug Woodard: vocals (9); The Woodard Family: vocals (9); Karl Denison: tenor sax (10); Dane Bryant: keyboards (10); John Billings: bass (11); Raymond Massey: drums (11); Keb' Mo': slide guitar (12)
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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