SMV – Live @ House of Blues

SMVLive @ House of Blues
Boston – June 11, 2009
Matt Robinson

“This is history!” said bass master Stanley Clarke.

And so it was- For where else could one experience a live performance by three of the greatest living bass players (accompanined by scores of air bassists) together on stage in every combiation of acoustic and electric, jazz and funk imaginable?


But here it was- This was SMV!


In addition to strummer Stanley (who is the “S” of the trio’s title), there was also snap-master Marcus Miller (Miles davis, Luther Vandross, etc.) and junior partner Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones). Clarke’s invoking Jaco Pastroious and Miller’s Wayman Tisdale Basketball Camp t-shirt brought the spirits of other great low-enders into the room, but the main focus here was on the “big three” on the Boston stage.


Focusing, however, was often a major problem- Not for the artists (all of whom could hit any note dead-on despite the velovcity of their sometimes blurring fingers), but for the audience. As each of the three was such a masterful pleasure to behold (even for each other), it was often difficult to rest one’s eyes or ears on any of them at any one time, especially when they were all firing full force, whch they did often. Fortunately, with the help of Miller’s playful pointing and some sumptuous solo shots, each was able to step to the front and show their stuff.


When he was playing alone, Wooten’s padded fingertips spidered across his entire instrument, using every inch of the fretboard and beyond. 


When it was not his turn, Wooten often stepped to the side and joined the audience as he gazed in wonder at his own musical heroes. Miller’s personality-filled  features twisted his facial features into funny funky forms as his hands did the same. He also proved to be quite adept at the sax and even the bass clarinet, with which he jammed with an upright Clarke on “When I Fall in Love.” Clarke’s acoustic work was at first overwhelmed by the dynamic electric duo of Miller and Wooten, but when he amped up, his solo was a breathtaking thing of speed and agility that had people shaking their heads as fast as he wiggled his arms. In addition to some well-loved but rethought classics that included “When I Fall” and an encore of “Love Supreme,” the trio offered selections from their new album, including the hummy hoedown of “Mongoose Walk” and a take on the classically- trained “Milano” that let Stan play a bit of “I’m a Man” (approrpaite to the venue) before leading the band for a final round of “Grits”  that stuck to the ears like good soul food should.


This was history, all right – the bass-is for a new generation of players.