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Beyond the Bass-ics

Victor Wooten
Solo Flecktone: Bassist Victor Wooten flies solo on "A Show of Hands."

Wooten pushes his instrument in new directions

By Nicky Baxter

IF YOU WANT to know the future direction of electric bass, pay close attention to Victor Wooten. Until recently, he was best known as a member of the genre-jumping Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. On his first solo outing, A Show of Hands (Compass), Wooten pushes--make that shoves--the envelope even farther afield. Wooten first began laying down bottom lines at 5, and he and his brothers (including Roy "Future Man" Wooten, now a Flecktone) made one recording that sunk without a trace. After five years of freelancing, the brothers were recruited by Fleck.

A Show of Hands manifests the same sort of virtuosity that has garnered rave reviews for Fleck. As is the case for many debut solo albums, Wooten tosses everything he's got into Hands: Larry Graham slap-style funk ("I Can't Hold No Groove"), retooled jazz standards ("Melody") and European art music ("Classical Thump"). Hands rarely slips into gratuitous exhibitionism, though, and even when it does ("Me & My Bass"), it's forgivable because Wooten is so impossibly good. Seemingly impossible as well is the fact that every sound here is all Wooten; there are no overdubs.

Wooten's a tough act to follow, but Will Bernard's quartet is up to the challenge. The Berkeley­based guitarist has quietly developed a reputation for himself. In addition to leading his own band, he has worked with T.J. Kirk, Peter Apfelbaum and Rinde Eckert.

Victor Wooten and Will Bernard play Saturday (Oct. 12) at 8:30pm at the Agenda Lounge, 399 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $5. (408/287-4087)

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From the October 10-16, 1996 issue of Metro

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