Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Victor Wooten - 1999 "Yin Yang"

Yin-Yang is the third album released by Victor Wooten.
The track "Pretty Little Lady" has a vocal line that was recorded backwards and then played in reverse, so that it appears to sound normal. This is an example of phonetic reversal.
There is video of the recording of "Zenergy" and "Resolution" found on Victor Wooten and Carter Beauford "Making Music".

There's little question that Victor Wooten is an ambitious musician. That was evident from his first two records, but Yin-Yang easily reaches farther than any album he has yet made. Spanning two discs, one instrumental and one vocal, Yin-Yang tries a little bit of everything, all underneath a smooth fusion umbrella. There's a bass showcases, worldbeat fusions, bluegrass jazz, smooth soulful jazz with banjos, full-fledged urban soul, songs based around baby gibberish -- a little bit of everything, all given immaculate, glossy production. That clean production not only makes the record sound accessible, but it makes the eclecticism and unpredictable stylistic fusions sound familiar. Depending on your point of view, that's either a good or a bad thing -- it either means Wooten is welcoming more listeners, or it means that it's not challenging. And that's the strange thing about Yin-Yang -- it's not particularly challenging, yet it is complex and difficult to digest in one sitting. That's largely because there's so much music on the record, but it's also because Wooten's ideas sound better when heard a few cuts at a time. He's a very talented musician and has some great ideas, but a little discipline and editing would make his records more convincing and compelling. 

Admittedly, what Victor Wooten can do goes well beyond conventional limits of the bass. In fact, in some cases, it has nothing to do with the bass at all. In his eagerness to “sing” melodies on his 4-string electric bass, the extraordinary bassman from Bela Fleck & The Flecktones becomes a saxophonist, a pianist, a guitarist. Stanley Clarke, Alphonso Johnson and Jaco Pastorius pioneered this territory and John Patitucci took it a step further by developing uncannily fluid chops on the 6-string electric bass.

Wooten is a chops monster himself and he certainly gets to strut his stuff on this two-CD set (one instrumental, one vocal). But while he can play the hell out of the bass (check the sheer burn on “Hip Bop” and the ultra-funky “What Crime Is It?” featuring special guest vocalist Bootsy Collins) he seems to have a bigger agenda that transcends his instrument. Wooten is in love with melodies, and it shows. He gushes shamelessly on smooth numbers like “Urban Turban,” “Resolution” and “Joe’s Journey,” a paean to a fallen friend. He revisits Flecktones country on “Zenergy,” featuring a guest spot by Bela on banjo, and ‘sings’ lyrically on “Sacred Place.”

The natural progression of Wooten’s vocal approach to the bass is to actually sing himself, which he does in convincing fashion on the pop-flavored second CD, revealing a particular fondness for Roger Troutman & Zapp (“Hormones in the Headphones”), Prince (“Yinin’ & Yangin’,” “Singing My Song”) and Morris Day & The Time (“Pretty Little Lady”).

One clever track is “Kaila Speaks,” in which Wooten records the musical warblings of his 13-month-old daughter, then transcribes the natural pitches of her rap and scores music behind it. It’s a neat trick, one that guitarist Steve Vai also pulled off with his infant son on a tune he called “Goo-Goo-Gak.” But Wooten’s tender rendition is especially poignant. Kaila reprises her star turn as a seasoned 16-month-old on “Kaila Raps.”

Victor is reunited on this project with his talented brothers Regi on guitar, Joseph on keyboards and Rudy on sax, who along with drummer brother Roy (a.k.a. Future Man) made up the pre-Flecktones band, The Wootens. They all contribute mightily on this homecoming that traverses world music, funk, smooth jazz, bebop, pop, bluegrass and beyond.

Jazz bassist Victor Wooten has become a living legend in the modern jazz scene. As a member of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, he has been astounding audiences for years. As a solo artist he makes records that are deeply musical and technically breathtaking. His latest effort, Wooten's latest release, Yin Yang is a 2-CD set: Yin is devoted to instrumental tracks and Yang is devoted to vocal-oriented tracks. Featuring special guest artists Bela Fleck, Bootsy Collins, Peter Rowan, Carter Beau ford, Stuart Duncan, Jeff Coffin, Rod McGaha, Jonell Mosser, JD Blair, Kirk Whalum and the Wooten Brothers. 

Victor Wooten is one of those rare electric bass technocrats who learned all the right lessons from Jaco Pastorius. While sounding not at all like him, Wooten exhibits the same ability to retain the groove and a warm midrange tone while demonstrating considerable prowess. On this ambitious two-CD project, Wooten runs the gamut from "wave" type instrumentals like "Imagine This," where overdubbed basses function as both foundation and melody instruments, to sampled spoken-word pieces. Yin-Yang is definitely a family affair, including three other Wootens--Joseph (keys), Regi (guitar), and Rudy (sax)--as well as extended family members like Victor's fellow Flecktone Béla Fleck and Dave Matthews Band drummer Carter Beauford. Even with all these guests, one would've preferred perhaps a more tightly edited single CD that featured more of Wooten's instrumental individuality (on the order of "Singing My Song" with its stripped-down bass, drum, and vocal approach, or "Tali Lama" with its bluegrass tinges courtesy of Peter Rowan, and less generic "happy jazz" like "The Urban Turban"). Nevertheless, Yin-Yang should be required listening for any player or fan of electric bass.

Track listing
Disc one - instrumental

    "Imagine This" (V. Wooten) – 5:08
    "Yinin' & Yangin'" instrumental (V. Wooten) – 4:36
    "Hip Bop" (V. Wooten) – 4:03
    "Joe's Journey" (V. Wooten) – 5:20
    "The Urban Turban" (V. Wooten) – 2:42
    "Tali Lama" (V. Wooten) – 5:17
    "Zenergy" (Béla Fleck, Carter Beauford, V. Wooten) – 6:46
    "Kaila Speaks" (Future Man, V. Wooten) – 3:00
    "Sacred Place" (V. Wooten) – 3:46
    "Resolution" (Carter Beauford, V. Wooten) – 4:57

Disc two - instrumental and vocal

    "Hormones in the Headphones" (Michael Kott) – 4:06
    "Yinin' & Yangin'" vocal version (J.D. Blair, Dwight Farrell, Jonathan Morse, V. Wooten) – 4:12
    "Kaila Raps" (V. Wooten) - 4:42
    "One" (V. Wooten) – 4:54
    "What Crime Is It?" (J.D. Blair, Bootsy Collins, William Collins II, V. Wooten) – 4:55
    "Go Girl Go" (Michael Kott) – 3:18
    "Pretty Little Lady" (V. Wooten) – 3:34
    "Hero" (Future Man) – 4:42
    "Singing My Song" (V. Wooten) – 4:43
    "Think About That" (V. Wooten) – 4:09

Personnel

    Victor Wooten - bass guitar, cello, programming, background vocals, acoustic bass, electric upright bass
    Steve Bailey - bass
    Carter Beauford - drums
    J.D. Blair - drums, vocals, drum programming
    David Blazer - cello
    Kathy Chiavola - vocals
    Jeff Coffin - tenor saxophone
    Bootsy Collins - vocals
    Billy Contreras - violin
    Count Bass D - rap
    Stuart Duncan - fiddle
    Tabitha Fair - vocals
    Béla Fleck - banjo
    Joseph Wooten - organ, piano, keyboards, theremin, background vocals
    Aseem Hetep - vocals
    Michael Kott - cello, background vocals
    Park Law - vocals
    Rod McGaha - trumpet
    Jonathan Morse - background vocals
    Jonell Mosser - vocals
    Jim Roberts - djembe, shaker
    Peter Rowan - vocals
    Buddy Spicher - violin, viola
    Kurt Storey - violin
    Allyson Taylor - vocals
    Kirk Whalum - soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
    Roger "Rock" Williams - soprano saxophone
    Dorothy G. Wooten - vocals
    Holly Wooten - background vocals
    Kaila Wooten - vocals
    Regi Wooten - acoustic guitar, guitar, wah-wah guitar
    Rudy Wooten - saxophone

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