Charlie Wooton Project – Blue Basso
Wild Heart Records – 2019
10 tracks; 47 minutes
New Orleans-based, Charlie Wooton was the bass player in Royal Southern Brotherhood and the New Orleans Suspects. Like every electric bass player over the last thirty years, Charlie was influenced by Jaco Pastorious, to whom this album is a tribute, with a cover of one of Jaco’s tunes and one track named after the late Weather Report bassist.
The Project is Charlie on bass, Jermal Watson on drums, Keiko Komacki on keys and Daniel Groover (great name!) on guitar; Arsène DeLay adds vocals to six tracks and there are guest spots for guitarists Sonny Landreth, Damon Fowler, Anders Osborne and PFunk’s Eric McFadden, plus Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish. There are two covers but the rest of the material comes from within the band, everyone contributing with Charlie and Daniel getting six credits each.
The album opens with “Jaceaux”, a funky instrumental tribute with both Charlie and Doug Wimbish featured on twin bass leads. Two fine vocal performances follow: “Reflections” is a lovely tune graced by Arsène’s vocals and some excellent guitar work by Daniel, very much in Carlos Santana mode; arguably even better is the uptempo “I Don’t Know”, Damon’s lap steel adding to Daniel’s guitar, Charlie’s bass bubbling along underneath and driving the song forward – great stuff! Those who recall “Come On, Come Over” from Jaco’s first solo album will recognize the bass lead over some fine NO drumming but the distortion used on Arsène’s vocals detracts from the performance, in this reviewer’s opinion, especially as she sings so brilliantly on the two preceding tracks.
Daniel’s “Dimenote” is a jazzy instrumental with lots of striking drum work by Jermal leading into Daniel’s fast-picking guitar work. Arsène returns to the microphone on the lilting ballad “One Night”, Anders Osborne adding some fluid guitar lines before “Fulton Alley”, named after a NO club, which runs to seven minutes with the core quartet locked into a churning groove so typical of New Orleans funk styles. Sonny Landreth appears on the next two cuts: “Tell Me A Story” has a frenetically funky rhythm as Arsène sings of a bluesman whose playing could bring crowds to a frenzy without opening his mouth – most appropriate therefore to have Sonny working his slide magic here! “Front Porch” does what the title suggests as the band plays in acoustic mode as Sonny and Daniel have a conversation.
To close the album Eric McFadden adds his guitar to a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You”, the rhythm section hitting a NO funk style, Arsène delivering the familiar lyrics. It’s a slightly odd choice for an album paying tribute to Jaco Pastorious but it works well enough in itself.
This is the third album released on Samantha Fish’s Wild Heart Records label but is not blues. However, there is plenty to enjoy if your tastes range widely, especially towards jazz and New Orleans influences.