Immediately upon finding a seat in the packed house Big Room, the lights dimmed. I was happy that the show had been waiting for me because I had certainly been waiting for it! When I first saw Wooten’s solo work (initially his cover of the song, “Amazing Grace”), I was floored. He quickly became one of my favorite musicians.
At the Big Room, all conversation and sound was replaced with silence and anticipation. Long, droning notes from Wooten on cello and Dave Welsch on keyboard crept through the air, transforming the sonic atmosphere into that of a still, glassy pond. Then, with the addition of the other band members, the air was shattered by “A Woman’s Strength,” written and sung by Krystal Peterson – a charming blonde woman who’s slight build belied the force and soul delivered by her well-trained voice.
Their next song, “Brooklyn,” swaggered through the room like the Reservoir Dogs roaming the streets of Brooklyn. Wooten stepped to the front of the stage and laid down a solo that was like Gregory Hines stood up and started tap dancing. He did a small toss of his instrument, quickly spun around, caught the bass, and continued playing!
Wooten’s style is impressive; hitting many notes very quickly, while still maintaining musicality. He simultaneously plays a rhythmic bass line alongside dancing melodies and fills in all the cracks with counter-melodies and harmonics. He doesn’t simply shove a bunch of cacaphonic notes at you to display speed.
The incredible skill of Steve Bailey, chair of the Bass Department at Berklee College of Music, was apparent by both the lyrical and proficient execution of his six-string fretless bass and by the obvious adoration from Wooten. The two joined in a duet that brought the energy of a carnival.
When Dave Welsch joined on the keyboard, the sound became a little too Electric Light Parade, but that was quickly replaced by one of the most synchronized drum duets I’ve seen. The drum sets of J.D. Blair and Derico Watson were positioned at opposite sides of the stage facing the center. They started with a rollicking call and response followed by an incredible unison attainable only by drummers with great skill and intuition.
It was evident that the musicians were having as much fun as the crowd. During one of Wooten’s solos, others on stage took out their cell phones and shoved them in his face to take pictures.
I was completely entranced when he played a medley of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and “Amazing Grace”. For their encore, they played “I Want You Back. ” What better than one of the greatest bass lines ever written to conclude this funky, bass-driven, and masterful show?