Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Victor Wooten & Stanley Clarke

Saturday afternoon was a treat for all bass fans with the double show of the Victor Wooten Band, followed by the Stanley Clarke Band. Both bands are touring as a package. The shows were sold out and the capacity crowd was in for a treat.

Bassist Victor Wooten is one of the new bass heros on the scene and naturally, he was the center of the action during his show. With him, he had his brothers Regi Wooten on guitar and Joseph Wooten on keyboards (who toured with the Steve Miller Band for 18 years), backed by the amazing drummer Derico Watson. They provided a powerful show full of hard-hitting fusion and out-of-this-world bass playing, Victor Wooten showed a tremendous range of technique from slapping to tapping to whatever you can imagine that can be done with a bass. The other members of the band showed great skills as well, especially Regi on guitar showed a masterful tapping technique that reminded me of Stanley Jordan in parts. Another player that really stood out was drummer Derico Watson who not only could play some mean in the pocket funky grooves, but also provided some mind-boggling and complex drum solos. The band mostly played songs from their own catalog, among them the thought-provoking "I Saw God" from their current Palmystery CD, plus a jazzed and funked up version of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back". This was a really impressing concert for all fusion and bass lovers.

Next was Stanley Clarke, the now 60 years old bassist who started out in the early 70ies with Return To Forever and later went on with a successful solo career, being a living bass legend having legions of fans, me included - his music, among others, was responsible for igniting my love for jazz, so whenever I hear the sound of his instruments, it is like an old friend that is re-visiting me. He was accompanied by a band of young players, two keyboard players from Israel (Ruslan Sirota and Davy Nathan), Ronald Bruner, Jr on drums and Charles Artura on guitar. Stanley started on the acoustic bass and played a couple of great straight-ahead tracks in the RTF vein with some good solos by the band, before he picked up the electric bass for some more hard-hitting tracks. Then another acoustic part followed, before Victor Wooten was called to the stage to help bring down the house with Stanley's biggest hit "School Days". This was a excellent show on a high level which was musically satisfying.

After the show, both bass players visited Gerald Veasley's Bass Boot Camp where several workshops took place to instruct bass players of all levels, sharing some knowledge and experience with the aspiring bassists attending.