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Atlanta bassist Charlie Wooton releases debut 

With a little help from his friends

Other than the bass-playing leader, you're never quite sure who may appear at a Charlie Wooton Project show. As his band's name implies, Wooton doesn't have a specific set of musicians that accompany him when playing live. Rather, as heard on the recently released debut under his moniker, Wooton keeps his music fresh with a diverse set of exceptional performers that usually change show by show, week after week.

It's no surprise that the Louisiana-bred founder of the cross-pollinated Zydefunk would release an eclectic solo album that incorporates good time R&B (the late Donnie McCormick's "Daydreamin'"), fluttery Afro-pop ("Tell Me"), frothy reggae ("Unexpected Kisses") and righteous funk-jazz fusion ("Higher Than Low"). That's a lot of territory to cover, especially for a bassist who keeps his distance from the vocal microphone, wisely letting others take the spotlight. But the songs, many constructed by overdubs, flow together with nonchalant ease, creating a vibe and riding it, rooted by Wooton's wonderfully elastic, unpredictable bass playing.

Like his instrument of choice, Wooton is firmly grounded in Atlanta's roots music community. He has played with numerous local blues/jazz/funk musicians since starting Zydefunk in 1996, many of whom will be joining him for his CD release gig this week. The highlights read like a who's who of the Atlanta jam scene with veterans Oliver Wood, Heather Luttrell, Count M'Butu, drummer John McKnight and reed man Marcus Henderson already confirmed.

Although most of the tunes on his album are tightly constructed, there's plenty of room for improvisation, especially on the low-key jazz-soul burner "So Hard To Say" and the driving New Orleans pocket of the predominantly instrumental "Orangutan." The latter features Henderson blowing high-voltage, David Sanborn-styled sax.

The unique and highly anticipated dream team backing Charlie Wooton is a testament to his talent and persona since he not only attracts such high-wattage musicianship but spurs these established players to new heights playing his ambitious groove-based music.

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