Bringing Back Fun
The Wooten Brothers Get Down with Sinbad for an Old-School Funk Party

By Lee Valentine Smith

The Fun & Funk Xplosion Tour combines The Wooten Brothers in concert together with Sinbad. Yes, it sounds like an odd pairing at first glance. But the combination of one of the most inventive comedians working today with some of America's most accomplished musicians is actually a great idea.

Bassist Victor Wooten and drummer Roy "Future Man" Wooten are founding members of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. Keyboardist Joseph Wooten has played with the classic rock and blues-influenced Steve Miller Band since '93, and Regi "The Teacher" Wooten taught his younger brothers how to play. With Bob Franceschini (a veteran of Tito Puente and Paul Simon's bands) on saxophone, it's a genre-blurring supergroup.

The addition of accomplished comic/actor/pop culture historian/musician Sinbad turns the group's ten-city tour into an old-school funk party band. On the day before the tour was scheduled to begin, INsite spoke with Victor Wooten - while Sinbad laughed and joked in the background - at a rehearsal studio in Nashville.

Are you ready for the Xplosion?

We are putting the finishing touches on it to make sure it's as funky and funny as possible. And man, we are just laughing and grooving so hard.

At first the Wooten and Sinbad convergence seems an odd combination, but it makes total sense.

It does sound odd - but just at first. Sinbad is so funny, and a lot of people don't know how musical he is. I think it's gonna be an eye-opener for people. He's an amazingly funny and positive guy and he tells the truth. He makes you think about things. So we're gonna give people some music, but also some things to think about. We are gonna hit you with music first but then we want to affect your mind, too. As well as giving your eyes something to see. We're not going to just stand there and play.

How'd this tour come together?

I had this album [Trypnotyx] out last year and I was wanting to tour with my trio, but my drummer Dennis Chambers was busy. He's always busy. Everybody wants him. Then one day my manager said, 'I know you're gonna think I'm crazy, but why don't we ask Sinbad?' I was like, 'Wow, that's brilliant!' Then the ideas just started flowing. I said, 'Let me see if my brothers are free.' I wanted to bring them out and just go all old-school funk and R&B. Maybe pull out some Michael Jackson, Prince and Gap Band stuff and let the audience groove and let Sinbad be Sinbad. So we did and it's really a party.

After this tour, could this line-up become a regular gig for everyone - with an album and merch and full commitment?

Right now, we're putting all our efforts on these ten shows. But I can't imagine it's not gonna happen again. It's gonna be so different and so much fun. I actually think Sinbad is the most excited of any of us.

Because it's a new challenge for him?

When you do your own thing, but you get the chance to do something else that's also your passion, it's just better. I don't think Sinbad's ever really done a musical tour and we're all gonna have a lot of fun.

How are you lining up the show? Will Sinbad have time for a straight stand-up set? Or is it just one long jam session?

Of course. He'll do his thing, but the cool thing is, we have a few spots where he does his thing over the music. We'll all bring it down and provide a backdrop for him. Then there's times where we will just stop and let him do it by himself. It'll be different every night. We're improvising musicians, so we always change it up.

Any special guests?

Every city has their stars. It just depends on who shows up. We're starting in Cincinnati and that's where Bootsy Collins lives. We can't promise anything - but who knows? In Atlanta, we all have so many friends down there, we don't know what's gonna happen. And the audience is special and we include them in the show. So really the audience is our special guest every night of the tour.

Playing with your brothers must be just second nature to you now.

Well I'm the youngest and when I came along, they needed a bass player. They were already playing and I just filled in the band. I think Regi says that when I turned six, we were already the opening band for Curtis Mayfield. I've never not done it, but I had great teachers along the way.

You're passing along those lessons to the kids at your camps.

Absolutely. We just finished a camp yesterday. This is our 19th year with the music camps at Wooten Woods Retreat, just outside of Nashville. It's for all ages, too. I like to introduce music to younger people and try to bring back the love for it for the older people. Sometimes we do it so much it becomes a chore or we're trying too hard. We just want to bring back the fun.

The Fun & Funk Xplosion performs Saturday, May 5 at Buckhead Theatre. For more information, please visit thebuckheadtheatreatl.com.

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