Victor Wooten on his S.M.V supergroup with Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller: “It was like Michael Jordan and LeBron James asking you to be on their basketball team!”

Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten perform on stage on the second day of the North Sea Jazz Festival on July 11, 2009 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
(Image credit: Photo by Peter Van Breukelen/Redferns)

Formed in 2008, S.M.V has been hailed as a historic coming together of three of the bass guitar’s greatest players: Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten. What could have been another bolted-together ‘superband’ actually resulted in a rather fine studio album – full of surprisingly varied and expansive music – as well as a memorable world tour that drew tens of thousands to see them wherever they went. 

For Victor Wooten, it must have been quite an experience to work so closely with two other giants of the bass world? “Imagine doing something that you really love to do,” says Victor. “Then think about your two heroes in whatever that field is – if you’re a basketball player and all of sudden Michael Jordan and LeBron James come and ask you to be on their team – how would that make you feel?

“I had to deal with all of that and had to remember to step up and be a part of the team rather than just sit back and be amazed by it – which would have been easy to do because I could easily sit back and just watch these amazing guys. In the recording studio, onstage and just travelling on planes and buses there was just a lot to learn.” 

Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten of SMV perform on stage at as part of Jazz a Vienne on July 5, 2009 in Vienne, France.

(Image credit: Photo by David Redfern/Redferns)

They also managed to avoid the pitfalls of so many bass-led groups and put the music first. Victor happily acknowledges this: “It’s music! We made sure of that, but we knew we had to give people some fireworks, but at the same time we wanted to make the best music possible, not just a bass showcase.

“And it was really nice to learn about the human side of these guys, because when you watch them on TV they’re not really human; they just exist on TV and on CDs. Then all of a sudden you realise they are human, they make mistakes, and learning and seeing how they work through them taught me a lot. I feel like I’m a better musician and person because of it. It was just an amazing all-round experience.”

It was back in 2006 that Victor and Marcus Miller first mooted the idea of collaborating with Stanley Clarke under the moniker of S.M.V. “We presented Stanley with a Lifetime Achievement Award,” says Marcus, “so we both talked a bit about our appreciation for Stanley, and afterwards the three of us got up on stage and played School Days

“It was really fun and the people really loved it, so I started wondering if this could be something that we might want to do, maybe a CD and a tour, but that’s how it happened, man. Everyone was really busy, Stanley was in the middle of a Return to Forever reunion, Victor was doing his thing, and I was doing my thing, so it took a couple of false starts before we finally got it rolling, but it was so beautiful that we got to do it again!"

Thunder by S.M.V is available now on CD, and as a digital download

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Nick Wells

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.