In 2005, Victor Wooten paid tribute to his bass heroes – dozens of them, in fact – on a song called Bass Tribute. Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, Larry Graham, Marcus Miller, Bootsy Collins, James Jamerson – all were name-checked, along with a host of others. So you'd think that a list-making enthusiast like Wooten would have no problem coming up with 10 essential bass albums, right?
“I have to admit, it's not so easy," Wooten says, chuckling. "There are so many albums that influenced me and helped shape my style on the bass. I don't really have a 'favorite' anything, whether it's food or music. My favorites keep changing."
The five-time Grammy winner, who has been called "the Michael Jordan of the bass," started gigging at the age of five, performing alongside his four brothers in The Wooten Brothers Band. Records were passed around and shared like salt at the family dinner table. But Wooten cites a live album by the late soul vocalist Donny Hathaway, played for him by one of his aunts, as a true life-changer.
"Hearing Willie Weeks on bass on Donny Hathaway Live made me think about things in a new way," he says. "The song Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything) has the first bass solo that I ever sat down and figured out. It's just exceptional. Ever since I heard that, I listened more and more to what bass players were doing on records."
On the following pages, Wooten, known to do the impossible on a fretboard, surprises even himself and runs down what he considers to be 10 essential bass albums (listed alphabetically by artist). "Paring it all down is hard," he says. "I know I'm leaving people out, but I can definitely call these records my core. They're albums that I can recommend to people who want to learn something new on the bass, or even if they just want to listen to some great music, that's cool, too."