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The Wooten Brothers

by Jeff Nania on December 19, 2013 · 1 comment



“All we need is a drummer,” keyboardist-vocalist Joseph Wooten said after taking a selfie from center stage. His brother, Roy “Future Man” Wooten, walked on and started a funk groove from his drumset. Victor and Reggie sequentially entered, and a string of Sly Stone tunes lit the night off.

These brothers are at once creative, virtuosic, and extremely well-rounded. They covered so much musical ground in their two-hour set at the Egg that it was easy to understand their lifelong musical journey through funk, R&B, country, smooth jazz, modern jazz, and lots more. Each brother briought something utterly unique to the show, so it came as no surprise that these guys would come together to do something that had never been done before.

“You never seen anybody hit on 52,” Reggie said after the quartet did just that.

They had been grooving on James Brown’s “Sex Machine” when they went into an extended section of hits where Joseph would call out: “hit me one [two, three, four, 10, etc.] time[s],” and the band would hit together. He also would call out: “hit on two [five, seven, nine, etc.” Hence, the inevitable, “hit on 52.” The number happened to be Joseph’s new age, as it was his birthday.

After the initial funk odyssey, the group played a more recent tune of bassist Victor’s called “Two Timers”—not because they hit it two times, but because it lives in two time signatures at once.

Victor almost immediately amazed the audience with his chops before Joseph entered with some sharp, penetrative electric-piano sounds, and eventually synth trumpet and flute. Four strong, the Wooten Brothers were not there in their entire original configuration; their virtuosic saxophonist brother Rudy passed away in 2010 with his horn still around his neck. While they were sure he was there in spirit, the horn parts were all played on various synthesizers by Joseph throughout the night.

A vamp that sounded like “Carol of the Bells” showcased each individual’s talents as the solos started from the quietest dynamic and built to a volume and intensity that filled the theater. Joseph worked in some vocoder on this one and began building his solo until he sang without it at the solo’s peak among a bevy of applause.

While they are all highly capable musicians, it may be brother Reggie, the guitarist, who has developed the most distinctive style. During an improvised solo masterpiece, as his brothers looked on from the side of the stage, Reggie showed that he had gone not only postmodern, but nearly post-guitar. His thoughts seemed to go too fast for the instrument, as he cranked the gain and did some Stanley Jordan-esque finger tapping while his Peavey amp hissed in the background almost like old dusty vinyl. The impressionistic beginning of the solo saw him search for solid ground as he eventually worked into a solo of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” From there, he went into a bluegrass finger-picking style and a fast bluesy thing where he walked bass and soloed simultaneously before his brothers again joined him. They then went into the most hard-rocking tune of the night: Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks.”

The brothers also talked about their personal journeys, as their initial move to New York City didn’t go exactly how they had planned and was instead a humbling experience. From there they moved down to Virginia where they all worked on various shows at the Busch Gardens theme park, eventually all playing in the park’s country show, complete with cowboy boots and hats. They then moved to Nashville, which is when Victor and Bela Fleck first got together, and the group showed off a couple of the tunes that made the Flecktone sound famous.

After being amazed by each and every one of them, Victor summed it all up the best when he said, “I was born at the right time, in the right place, to the right people.”

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