Victor Wooten at The Rio, by Joshua Huver
Victor Wooten (photo: Joshua Huver)

Last Thursday, January 11, legendary bass guitarist and inspiring musician Victor Wooten graced the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz to begin 2018.

In support of his latest studio album TRYPNOTYX, the five-time Grammy winner from Idaho has spent recent months touring with drummer Dennis Chambers and saxophonist Bob Franceschini as the Victor Wooten Trio. The Trio was last in the Bay Area in October for two nights at Yoshi’s in Oakland. Before that in August, Wooten reprised his role on bass for Bela Fleck and The Flecktones in Saratoga.

Brought to Santa Cruz by the premier taste-making of Kuumbwa Jazz, Wooten and co. put on an hour and a half clinic for the love of live music. Throughout the evening, he stopped to thank the audience for their passion for live music, their attendance, and their interest as 10- to 20-minute movements of music were punctuated with anecdotes on life.

Victor Wooten at The Rio, by Joshua Huver

All three members entered the stage to the introductions of the second track from TRYPNOTYX, “DC10.” After taking several solos each, stretching their fingers and settling into a strong control of the music and the attention of the audience, the trio moved into the album’s next track, “Liz & Opie.” Following the acrobatics of each musican

“Music is a great way — and a safe way — to teach just about any life principle,” Wooten told the audience. “To be in a band, you have to listen to each other. Bands are at their best when every instrument is different, not the same. Everyone takes turns talking. Everyone speaks their voice. A lot of times musicians might ask, ‘What would you like me to play?’ I say, “Listen to the music. The music will tell you exactly what it needs.”

The band threw “A Little Rice and Beans” off the new release into the mix to spice things up. After an extended spotlight session on Franceschini, he stepped off the stage while Wooten and Chambers had a musical conversation punctuated by Wooten’s solo performance of “My Life”. Everybody returned to finish “Rice and Beans” and Wooten gave the sax another spotlight solo, but not before giving some love to Kenny G.

Victor Wooten at The Rio, by Joshua Huver

The saxophone solo eventually morphed into an artful work of zen and reflection on the existence of a moment, decorated by each member. At it’s end, Franceschini introduced a tune called “13th Floor”, a song about hanging in a fleeting moment, by inviting a blistering extended drum intro in 13/8 from Chambers.

Following “The 13th Floor,” Chambers and Franceschini left Wooten to create a world of mixed loops, tempos, instruments and moods, including a major jam on “The Music Lesson.” Wooten has also penned a novel titled The Music Lesson, and at the beginning of each measure (instead of chapter), there is a measure of music. When you put all those measures together, it creates a melody, and Wooten used that melody to soar.

The show closed with “Funky D,” also off of TRYPNOTYX. The sold out crowd got the opportunity to stick around and meet Wooten after the show.