Victor Wooten, A Show of Hands 15

Britt Robson

By Britt Robson

on 02.16.11 in Reviews

A Show of Hands 15

Victor Wooten

Can a solo bass record really sustain interest and not only reward repeated listening but make you eager to hear it again? A Show of Hands does, emphatically. But not by slapping strings and popping notes until your woofers beg for mercy. Instead, Wooten deploys the three main elements in a solo bassist's repertoire — tone, timbre and pulse — in an innovative manner, similar to the stimulating stylistic variations that are a hallmark of his longtime association with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. There are reflective, folk-jazz oriented pieces such as "The Vision" that sound like a bass version of Ralph Towner's acoustic guitar ruminationsl; it's a style that gets reggae-fied on "More Love" and gently funked-up on Wooten's gorgeous cover of Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed." "Medley" is a hit-and-run solo bass showcase of jazz-pop standards, including "Misty," Someday My Prince Will Come" and "A Night In Tunisia." And then there are the sassy funk workouts designed to make electric bassists swoon and hit "pause" and "replay" while they try to recreate the technical wizardry ("U Can't Hold No Groove" and, especially, the dynamic "Classical Thump.")

Deploying tone, timbre and pulse in an innovative manner

But along with tone, timbre and pulse, Wooten injected politics, transforming a great disc into an overlooked classic. Although recorded in the mid '90s, the political statements are universal enough, without resorting to slogans or banality, to be relevant during any time period. The spoken-word snippet "Not Like the Other" is one of the most trenchant and succinct defenses of diversity I've come across; it's followed up by the sly hip-hop song, "Justice," featuring strong lyrics that, considering Wooten isn't an MC, are decently rapped. Prior to that, the title track (asking for a "show of hands" by those who live for peace), is a marvelous display of intensified syncopation, brilliantly overdubbed into a textural braid, a song purposefully meant to stand out as a testimonial to Wooten's convictions.

This 2011 remastering of the 1996 original features three bonus tracks at the finish. Two are serviceable but not essential percussion-heavy out-takes. The final is a meandering but worthwhile twelve-minute live jam, akin to what might have happened if Jerry Garcia or the Allman Brothers' Dickey Betts had picked up the bass.