(HUDSON, N.Y.) –A full lineup of music at Club Helsinki kicks off tonight with innovative jazz-roots bassist Victor Wooten, best known for his experimental work with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, followed by a tribute to the late drummer and vocalist of The Band, Levon Helm, featuring top regional performers, on Thursday, June 7. On Friday, June 8, eclectic roots, neo-vaudevillian ensemble the Wiyos performs, while quirky rock legend Jonathan Richman performs on Saturday, June 9, at 9pm.
Jonathan Richman floats in a nether-world of pre-punk and singer-songwriter. Richman has been writing songs, making records and performing live for most of his life, winning fans and making friends around the world with his guileless honesty and playfully catchy compositions. He’s revered by countless fellow artists, and has built a remarkably loyal international audience through his tireless touring. His deceptively straightforward songs embody timeless qualities of humanity, optimism, emotional insight and a boundless sense of humor, untainted by cynicism or transient notions of hipness.
Richman began playing guitar at the age of 15, and in the early 1970s formed the Modern Lovers, whose raw, minimalist sound and emotionally forthright songs helped to lay the groundwork for punk rock. But by the time the group’s landmark debut album (including the much-covered “Road Runner,” a Top Five single in Europe) was released in 1976, Richman had already moved on to a quieter sound and a gentler lyrical focus. Since then, he’s continued to record and tour prolifically, first with a series of Modern Lovers lineups, later on his own, and eventually as a duo with drummer Tommy Larkins. Over the years, Richman’s music has absorbed a multitude of influences, from doo-wop to country to a variety of international styles, without sacrificing the artist’s effervescent personality.
Jonathan Richman wrote the lyric, “Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole,” and made it rhyme and swing. ‘Nuff said.
Born the youngest of five boys, Victor Lemonte Wooten began learning to play music at the tender age of two. He started performing in nightclubs and theaters as the bassist with the family band at age five, and at age six, was on tour with his brothers opening shows for legendary soul artist Curtis Mayfield. Soon after, he was affectionately known as the 8-year-old Bass Ace, and before graduating high school, he and his brothers had shared the stage with artists such as Stephanie Mills, War, Ramsey Lewis, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Dexter Wansel, and The Temptations.
Now a five-time Grammy winner, Wooten hit the worldwide scene in 1990 as a founding member of the supergroup Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Continuing to blaze a musical trail with the band, Wooten has also become widely known for his own Grammy nominated solo recordings and tours. He has also won every major award given to a bass guitarist including being voted Bassist of the Year in Bass Player Magazine’s readers poll three times (the only person to win it more than once.) In 2011, Rolling Stone Magazine voted Victor one of the Top Ten Bassist of all time.
Wooten’s sought-after skills and growing popularity have led to recordings and performances with artists such as Chick Corea, The Dave Matthews Band, Bootsy Collins, Branford Marsalis, Prince, India Arie, Keb Mo, Dennis Chambers, Stanley Clarke, and many others.
Along with recording Grammy winning and Billboard charting albums with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Victor also spearheaded the formation of the super-group SMV with two of his childhood heroes, Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller. He continues to record and tour with the Flecktones, various other artists, and as a solo artist. He also currently leads six to eight camps at Wooten Woods each year (which he takes part in all day every day). With all of this going on, it would seem like Victor Wooten would have no time for anything else, but that is not the case.
Taking matters completely into his own hands, Wooten has recently formed his own record label. Vix Records, Wooten’s self-proclaimed “Label of Love”, entered the scene in 2011 with a re-mastered version of his pioneering debut solo CD. The new version, A Show of Hands – 15, contains three bonus tracks and is also released on vinyl.
While the early Wiyos’ masterfully embodied the performance styles of the 1920s and 1930s, they approached touring life with the attitude of the rock and punk music they grew up with. They were known for crashing booking conferences instead of applying for official showcases, playing in the halls and in hotel lobbies. From 2003 to 2008 their shows (over 200/year) were entirely acoustic, typically gathered around one mic. Their reputation for “taking the room” made them darlings of the folk circuit, a must see act, and landed the band tours in Europe.
The buzz of these high paced Vaudeville-esque performances reached its zenith when they were featured in the BBC television documentary, Folk America – Hollerers, Stompers and Old-Time Ramblers. Later that same year, Bob Dylan hand-picked the band to be the openers for his 28 date minor league baseball stadium summer tour with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp.
It was their mastery of vintage acoustic performances that drew the attention of many in the folk music scene, and in 2008, The Wiyos hit the road with The Bob Dylan show, laying down opening set after set of grungy harp, crazed steel guitar, rockabilly bass, human beat box and three-part harmonies.
In 2010, the trio holed up in the Hudson Valley for numerous months, only emerging for the occasional short tour. They released one EP, Foxtrots, Polkas and a Waltz. Inspired by a recent run as the pit band to a modern dance production of “The Wiyos of Oz” at Wichita State in Kansas, the band commenced work at Old Soul Studios in Catskill, .N.Y., in the fall of 2010. Adam Matta joined in for the early sessions. Later Kenny Siegal and Brian Geltner of Johnny Society joined the recording and are now members of the touring band.
Thursday night’s tribute to Band vocalist and drummer Levon Helm, who died last month, includes performances by such regional all-stars as the Felice Brothers, Elvis Perkins and Dearland, Ambrosia Parsley from Shivaree, Carl or A.C Newman of The New Pornographers, Diamond Doves, Elegant Too and special guests.
For reservations in The Restaurant or in the club call: 518-828-4800
Club Helsinki Hudson 405 Columbia Street, Hudson, N.Y.