Review: Victor Wooten at the Jazz Kitchen 

click to enlarge BEN SMITH
  • Ben Smith

If your emotional response to the combination of jazz and soul music falls somewhere between casual enjoyment and clinical obsession, this show would've been your milk and honey.

I tend towards the latter end of the spectrum, but I've seen my fair share of soulless, robotic musical performances; fortunately for me, this show was the cure-all. It was like an auditory massage that targeted all the deepest knots.

That being said, you probably wouldn't even need fully-functioning ears to enjoy it: aside from Wooten, a five-time Grammy award-winning bassist himself, this band boasts three additional bassists and two drummers, all world-class musicians - in other words, plenty of vibrations.

That may sound like a lot of low-end for one stage, but they deliver everything necessary to make for a complete musical experience: the high and low frequencies, the grooves and melodies, and frequent bursts of expressive, heart-wrenchingly beautiful improvisation. It was all there.

The bassists were conscious enough of the sonic space to never play over each other, and usually one of them would lay down the groove while the others traded off on keyboards and horns; that being said, if you're the type that pays closest attention to the bass line when listening to music, you obviously wouldn't have been disappointed.

Among the insanely talented members of this band is Steve Bailey, the current Chair of the Bass Department at the internationally-renowned Berklee College of Music. But he wasn't the only one on stage who's highly-regarded both as a musician and an educator - in fact they all are, and for the bassists and drummers in the audience that night, this performance was as much a clinic as it was a concert.

True to the venue's namesake, the set list tended towards Wooten's jazzier side, underscored by a deeply-entrancing instrumental foray with Bailey at the helm; as the show progressed, they drifted seamlessly between wild improvisation and the low-down urban soul of songs like "Brooklyn" and "My Life", and the effect was hypnotic.

And the vocals? The vocals were especially good. Lead singer Krystal Peterson, an Indianapolis native, delivered without exaggeration one of the most electrifying and downright sexy performances I've ever witnessed, so impressive that the seated audience was moved to a standing ovation not once, but twice during the course of the evening.

For good measure, they played the always funky, Stevie Wonder penned Rufus classic "Tell Me Something Good", and on a scale of 1 to Chaka Khan, Peterson was straight-up, unabated Chaka Khan.

Unfortunately for those who couldn't make it, most of Wooten's studio material pales in comparison to what was on display at the Jazz Kitchen, but hey, next time you see his name on a concert schedule, it should be a no-brainer.

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