Victor Wooten, Dennis Chambers & Bob Franceschini: TRYPNOTYX
It’s almost absurd to use the simple descriptive “bassist” in conjunction with Victor Wooten. Like only a handful of musicians before him (among them is his bandmate Béla Fleck, who’s virtually redefined the banjo), Wooten has taken a familiar instrument and demonstrated how much more there is to it than we’d imagined. It’s a plus that Wooten is fearless too—if there’s an opportunity to go someplace new, then he’s on it, no questions asked. On TRYPNOTYX, Wooten is credited with drum programming and effects as well as his bass work, and his chosen co-conspirators—Bob Franceschini (tenor saxophone, flute and more) and Dennis Chambers (drums)—are right there with him, layering sounds atop sounds in pursuit of a wholly enveloping experience. Often, on tracks such as the title cut, “Cupid” and “The 13th Floor,” the trio stretches what they’ve got on hand to the limit, creating an orchestral denseness. Other tracks, more minimal in nature—the self-explanatory “A Soul Full of Ballad” and the James Brown-esque “Funky D”—don’t need to do any more than they set out to do: lay down grooves that never quit. Wooten and his mates are sculptors of a sort, gleefully going all funkadelic with the electronics, inventing impossible rhythms or just tossing around a playfully virtuosic lick or two. But never, ever, do they strut for the sake of strutting or thrill for the sake of thrilling—even at their most enterprising, at the core, is a ceaseless devotion to musicality and engagement.