The Victor Wooten Band and the Jimmy Herring Band wrapped up a three-week tour by detonating a titanic instrumental blast at The Egg on Sunday: an enormous sound that reached to the bottom, the skies and everywhere in between. Both bassist Wooten and guitarist Herring are musical chameleons, in the best possible way: They play with many bands, always managing both to fit in and to contribute their own personalities as well as their talents. On Sunday at The Egg, they played from deep within themselves, with super simpatico support.
Wooten’s highest profile gig with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones made him a star, but he collaborates on record in all directions, with both jazz players and rockers and tours with his brothers and with the band that bears his name. While Herring plays in Widespread Panic and boasts a résumé studded with star-time credits — the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Jazz Is Dead, the Allman Brothers Band, various reincarnations of the Grateful Dead and more — he only recently started recording and touring under his own name.
Herring’s quartet hit first, uncorking swampy funk like the Dixie Dregs playing way after hours in “Rainbow,” then the big ballad “Miss Poopie,” then a truck-driving groove with Wooten guesting in a big way in “Aberdeen.” “Kaleidoscope Carousel” echoed Pink Floyd dreamscapes, then fatback funk. Then, the British Invasion: Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You” (with three drummers) and the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” and “Within You, Without You” (sandwiched around a calypso strut. Herring looked like Duane Allman might, if he’d lived; but I doubt Allman would have played with more exquisite control of tones and phrasing.
A flat-picking note bender with sweet command of melody, a happy player who enjoyed his band — drummer Jeff Sipe, bassist Neal Fountain and keyboardist Matt Slocum — Herring took each tune from the simple to the spectacular, including those built on busy beats and odd chords. “Within You, Without You,” for example, built from a stately start to a playfully brisk, bold exploration.
Wooten’s band stretched their sound by doubling instruments: Bassists Anthony Wellington, Steve Bailey and Dave Welsch also played keyboards and horns while Wooten played guitar and cello in addition to supernatural bass. Drummers Derrico Watson and Kelly Gravely laid it down thick but supple. Herring launched jams from British Invasion hits, but Wooten sprang from Motown to the stratosphere, often on the wings of Krystal Peterson’s tremendous voice. Fearless as she was skilled (like everybody else on the show), she tackled Aretha’s “The House that Jack Built,” Rufus’ “Tell Me Somethin’ Good,” the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and “Overjoyed” — always impressively. It was soul, it was jazz, it was funky and fantastic.
Wooten delivered bass blasts deluxe, soloing to close the set but bringing Herring out to duet, beautifully. The encore was a mob scene, both bands and some crew rocking “I’m Gonna Miss You” and meaning it. They didn’t want to let the song go. The crowd, nearly full, and in these great players’ pockets from the start, hated to see them go.