September 28, 2008

Thunder Cats Thump Lion City

By Aref Omar

LEGENDARY bassists stanley clarke, marcus miller and Victor Wooten perform together in singapore. The heavens split and a whole lot of thunder ensues, AREF OMAR writes.

When three of the best bass players in the world get together onstage to perform, you can best expect a memorable experience of aural pyrotechnics.

And that's exactly what the enthusiastic audience that jam- packed the 2000-seater Theatre in Singapore's bay side Esplanade got.

After all, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten make up three generations of bassists that took the instrument from the background and musically shoved it to the forefront, inspiring a new found love for the bass and an army of bassists.

Kicking off the concert with the aptly titled Maestros de Las Frecuencias Bajas (Masters of the Low Frequencies), from their collaborative debut CD Thunder, it was a musical journey of jazz and funk fusion.

Relegated to bass god status by rabid fans, the three cool cats displayed fine camaraderie and sizzling chemistry.

This is their first collaboration together as SMV and their supporting world tour for Thunder began after the album's release last month.

Sporting their signature electric bass guitars, Clarke's tenor bass tone was most distinguishable while Wooten's slap and pop were akin to mini sonic explosions at times.

Miller had the enviable task of playing the saxophone and bass clarinet in addition to showcasing his impeccably clean thumping style.

The three were accompanied by Federico Pena on keyboards and drummer Derico Watson.

Amazing technical facility and ribcage-vibrating frequencies aside, the trio also showcased a knack for melodic and lyrical passages, letting their fingers do the talking.

Particularly interesting was the use of on-the-fly programmed looping of bass phrases by Wooten during his solo performance, where he slowly built up an initial melodic groove into a cascading wall of sound, before ending on a gentler note.

Another highlight of the night would be Clarke's solo performance on an acoustic double bass.

The towering 57-year-old, and eldest of the three, literally ravaged the instrument like a passionate lover, with vigorous plucks, slaps and bows, not to mention the odd Pete Townshend windmill strum.

Coaxing out everything from jazz to blues and rock refrains from the wooden instrument, Clarke drew a standing ovation from the appreciative audience, made up of stilettoed ladies and balding men, who whooped and whistled just as enthusiastically as the many groups of rowdy teenagers present.

Clearly the three crazy people, as Wooten put it, had the audience in the palms of their rock solid, lightning fast hands, as the 90-minute showcase of bass prowess was never shy of audience members clapping, tapping and nodding to the tight in-the-pocket grooves.

Other songs performed were Thunder, Hillbillies On A Quiet Afternoon, Mongoose Walk, Los Tres Hermanos (The Three Brothers) and Grits.

When Clarke questioned the audience for an encore song, the answer was a no brainer, as the words School Days were screamed out loud and clear.

The must-know bass anthem, taken from Clarke's influential 1976 album of the same name, was what sparked off the collaboration in the first place, when the three performed it together during a jam session two years ago in honour of Clarke's Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony by Bass Player magazine.

Followed by the contemporary rendition of standards in the Lopsy Lu-Silly Putty medley, it made for a fitting end to a night of thunderous performances, with ears still ringing from the boom.

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