This Weekend At The Boston Symphony Orchestra, It’s All About The (Electric) Bass

For the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as for most classical ensembles, the three B’s have always been Beethoven, Brahms, and Bach. Well, now you can add another B:  for bass, as in electric bass.  For the first time in its august history, the BSO will perform a concerto for electric bass. The composer and soloist will […]

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For the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as for most classical ensembles, the three B’s have always been Beethoven, Brahms, and Bach.

Well, now you can add another B:  for bass, as in electric bass.  For the first time in its august history, the BSO will perform a concerto for electric bass. The composer and soloist will be multi-Grammy winner Victor Wooten, widely regarded as one of the top bassists in the world.  This will be Wooten’s debut with the BSO.

The piece is called La Lección Tres, which Wooten used as a title because, as he says, “If the title is Spanish, then I sound smarter.” Wooten the composer has set Wooten the performer a daunting task, because while the piece is easy on the ears, it isn’t easy on the fingers.

The piece is part of a program of music by Black composers and also includes Anglo African composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s Hiawatha and jazz great Duke Ellington’s 1970 work The River, commissioned by the American Ballet Theatre for choreographer Alvin Ailey.

The conductor is BSO Artistic Advisor for Education and Community Engagement Conductor Thomas Wilkins. The performances will take place at 8 p.m. on October 28, 29, and 30, and at 3 p.m. on October 31.

Wooten was two years old when he started playing instruments; he credits his four brothers for inspiring him to love music.

“When your big brothers are doing something,” Wooten says, “naturally, you want to do it, too.  I was just banging away on a Mickey Mouse guitar, not even making music.  But while I was still very small, one of my brothers started showing me where to put my fingers on the strings of a real guitar, to produce the notes, to play chords.  I was hooked.”

Wooten’s music has always been deeply rooted in nature.  He credits an Apache teacher who showed him the connections among nature, awareness, and inner vision. 

“What he taught me about nature, I experienced as music,” Wooten says.

Wooten has been the bassist with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones since that group’s inception in 1988 and has also been a member of the groups SMV and Nitro.  He’s won 5 Grammys, has been named Bass Player of the Year three times by Bass Player Magazine, and Rolling Stone named him one of the Top 10 Bassists of All Time.

Wooten is also the author of two novels:  The Music Lesson: A Search For Spiritual Growth Through Music, and a sequel released earlier this year, The Lesson Continues.  Hence the title of his new work, La Lección Tres.

“There are times in the piece,” Wooten says, “where I’m supporting the symphony like an orchestra member, as a bass player. I’m just playing a bass part, nothing fancy. And then at other times, I want to show the audience what a bass can do.  I want the audience to say, he’s not just playing jazz.  He’s not just playing funk.  Although you’ll hear those elements in the work.  I want to give the audience a new experience and stretch their concept of what it means to hear music in a concert hall.

“It’s about unifying different types of music in one musical work and also unifying different types of audiences in one concert hall. I want both sides of the musical audiences, the classical and the modern, to come together and grow together. And then hopefully, the whole world gets better.”

For more information and tickets, www.BSO.org.

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