Bassist Victor Wooten makes his strongest musical statement yet on his debut disc with Heads Up Palmystery. While he has already garnered the great critical praise he richly deserves as a solo artist, this disc may finally give him broader recognition among jazz fans. Known primarily as the bassist in banjo ace Bela Fleck’s group, Wooten has won two Nashville Music Awards as Bassist Of The Year and is the only three time winner of Bass Player magazine’s prestigious Bass Player Of The Year award. In addition to Fleck, Wooten has worked with jazzers Branford Marsalis, Mike Stern, Chick Corea, blues musician Susan Tedeschi and the Jaco Pastorius Word Of Mouth Big Band.
This disc, Wooten’s sixth disc as a leader, is a collection of jazz, funk, world music and assorted other styles all united by Wooten’s virtuosic bass work. The wide variety of styles presented aptly demonstrates just how dexterous Wooten’s abilities are. "2 Timers" is full of horn-aided riffs driven by a powerful bass line that forces the music forward at a rapid pace. "The Lesson," a bass solo accompanied only by light percussion, gives Wooten the room to run a number of different musical phrases to their tangential completion before returning to the melody. That there are no overdubs on this cut only reinforces the virtuosity for which Wooten has long been famous.
Horace Silver’s "Song For My Father" is given a funky updating. Karl Denson’s tenor is tight but light, mixing well with Regi Wooten’s metrically off-kilter guitar smacks and Victor’s trippy bass lines. Together the seven musicians on this cut run the great pianist’s classic tune through a number of different styles and feels in swift succession. Just as you think the musicians are about to catch their breath, they’re off into another musical dimension and time-feel, shifting effortlessly between styles. "Flex" is all about speed. How the six musicians get from point A at the beginning to point B at the end is anyone’s guess. Throughout they push and push and push each other to flights of not just vastly swift lines but also to increasingly inventive motivic phrases.
Other standout tracks include "Happy Song" and "Miss U." "Happy" is a light and bouncy tune full of inventive turns of phrase and nimble-finger bass work. The song is so marvelously over-the-top joyful one can’t help but be reminded of Al di Meola’s "Roller Jubilee" from Splendido Hotel. "Miss U," featuring The Lee Boys on vocals, is a popish and jauntily confident tune that would not be out of place on pop radio.
If there is a single prevailing mood, it would have to be defined as upbeat cheerfulness mixed with strong artistic statements. Together this combination is a can’t miss success and the end result is easily Wooten’s best solo work to date.