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Bela Fleck

Premier banjo player Béla Fleck is considered one of the most innovative pickers in the world and has done much to demonstrate the versatility of his instrument, which he uses to play everything from traditional bluegrass to progressive jazz. He was named after composer Béla Bartok and was born in New York City. Around age 15, Fleck became fascinated with the banjo after hearing Flatt & Scruggs' "Ballad of Jed Clampett" and Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell's "Dueling Banjos," and his grandfather soon gave him one. While attending the High School of Music and Art in New York, Fleck worked on adapting bebop music for the banjo.

Fleck always had diverse musical interests, and his own style was influenced by Tony Trischka, Earl Scruggs, Chick Corea, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, the Allman Brothers, Aretha Franklin, the Byrds, and Little Feat. After graduation, he joined the Tasty Licks, a group from Boston. They recorded two albums and dissolved in 1979. Afterwards, Fleck joined the Kentucky band Spectrum. That year, only five years after he took up the instrument, he made his solo recording debut with Crossing the Tracks, which the Readers' Poll in Frets magazine named Best Overall Album. In 1982, he joined New Grass Revival and stayed with them until the end of the decade. During this time, his reputation continued to grow and in 1990, Frets added his name to their Hall of Greats. In 1988, one of his compositions, "Drive" (from the album New Grass Revival), was nominated for a Grammy.

Fleck, mandolin player Sam Bush, fiddler Mark O'Connor, bassist Edgar Meyer, and Dobro player Jerry Douglas teamed up in 1989 to form Strength in Numbers and record The Telluride Sessions. Late that year, Fleck was asked by PBS television to play on the upcoming Lonesome Pine Special; in response, he gathered together a veritable "dream team" of musicians to form the Flecktones. The original members included Howard Levy, who played piano, harmonica, and ocarina, among other instruments; bass guitarist Victor Lemonte Wooten, and his brother Roy "Future Man" Wooten on the drumitar, an electronic drum shaped like a guitar. Though the special wasn't aired until 1992, the Flecktones recorded their eponymous debut album in 1990 and followed it up with Flight of the Cosmic Hippo (1991).

In 1993, they released their third album, UFO Tofu, which featured music blending different genres ranging from bluegrass to R&B to worldbeat. In 1995, they released Tales from the Acoustic Planet; Left of Cool followed in 1998, and Tales from the Acoustic Planet 2: The Bluegrass Sessions was released a year later. Outbound followed in mid-2000. Busy and prolific, Fleck released an album of classical pieces, Perpetual Motion, in late 2001, followed by Live at the Quick in 2002, the ambitious double-disc Little Worlds (and its truncated single-disc version, Ten from Little Worlds) in 2003, and Music for Two (with bassist Edgar Meyer) in 2004. Fleck appeared on Abigail Washburn's first album, Song of the Traveling Daughter, in 2005. Hidden Land, another album with the Flecktones, appeared on Columbia Records in 2006. The band released its first holiday collection in 2008, appropriately titled Jingle All the Way. The Melody of Rhythm: Triple Concerto & Music for Trio appeared in 2009 from Koch Records, which teamed Fleck with cellist/bassist Edgar Meyer and the Indian percussionist Zakir Hussain along with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra directed by Leonard Slatkin.

Fleck was also part of Washburn's Sparrow Quartet (with cellist Ben Sollee and fiddle player Casey Driessen), which, sponsored by the U.S. government, toured China and released Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet in 2008. Also that year, Fleck went to Africa to take part in a documentary film directed by his half-brother Sascha Paladino and collaborated with over 40 of the continent's finest musicians, including D'Gary, Baaba Maal, Vusi Mahlasela, Toumani Diabaté, Bassekou Kouyate, and Oumou Sangare in Tanzania, Gambia, Mali, and Uganda. In 2009, Throw Down Your Heart, Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3: Africa Sessions -- both a film and recording -- was released to widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. Fleck reunited the original Flecktones for the spring 2011 release Rocket Science, and toured with the band as well as the trio with Hussain and Meyer, which resulted in the concert album The Melody of Rhythm: Triple Concerto & Music for Trio. In 2012, Fleck collaborated with the Marcus Roberts Trio, recording the co-billed Across the Imaginary Divide. Ever ambitious, he composed both an orchestral concerto and a chamber work around his banjo playing, and performed and recorded with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and the string quartet Brooklyn Rider, respectively. The recording appeared as The Imposter in August of 2013. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Danse Macabre (Single)

Comments

Bela IS an amazing string virtuoso!
rickshouseof b e a u t y s
Great sounds thanks
Bela Fleck masterfully cajoles wonderfully new and delightfully inviting sounds from the banjo!!
My cat is named after Bela Fleck!
Bela ain't your daddy's banjoist!
nesa.clark91
Grandpa never had the skill that Bela does, but listening to him play brings back sweet memories of Sunday afternoons when Grandpa on the banjo and his cousins on the guitars would delight my ears.
drumarsh
Wish i could play with Bela..
Great back then too!
I never heard of Bela Fleck before, and he is not my Grandpa's fiddler; but his beautiful sounds carry my enthusiasm from Bartok, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane to Toumani Diabate. His creativity flies off the cliffs of the Cumberland Mountains.
Great composition!
so good
Hip hip for Bela!
Glad to see all the folks that love what they choose to listen to hear this!
long live analog
jtucker42
Like this Bela Fleck! Can do some banjo, for sure!
gtburns0
1987, Telluride fest . Fleck, Meyer, Douglas, O'conner, and Bush...intro d u c e d as the all stars..they certainly were! finest live show I have ever witnessed. The sounds echoing through the 14k peaks as night fell Throw in Grisman for a few solos....... . . . G o o d Times
hank_proia
I saw the Flecktones a couple of months ago. I have never seen four people with such command of their instruments.
Absolutely as inovative as any musician that I have ever heard......W O W
Saw him play with Yonder Mountain String Band at Harvest Festival this fall. Love love love :)
God and country, pickin' and grinnin'
for the guy (bambajo) who said he would be bette (3 years ago): that's the spirit!. otherwise: Bela is Hungarian.
wow magnoliafest is around corner yea
Music with heart will find an audience
brightonbigl e r
Bela and the Flecktones put on the most delightful concerts I have ever been to. Be prepared for a musical journey that will engross your ears!
grey6666
I first heard Bela play at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1988 where Sam Bush called him the Frankenstein ' s Monster of the Banjo. Don't know that I'd quite agree but he has taken the music where no one would have seen it going...gott a love it!
oh my gosh...It's upbeat and carefree. I'm happy and I'm home
nice groove . . . for a banjo.
Amazing player and writer, and a nice guy too.
Simply my favorite artist.
b.rad.b.rott e n
dont forget to check out STRNGNTH IN NUMBERS- THE TELLURIDE SESSIONS. this is the first i ever heard bela and friends.late 80's?super mellow but vibrant, lite some candles and...
he´s a great banjo player
karen19508
WOW
seeing him tonight....
can't wait!
flynbike
Bela's knack for lifting the banjo into the modern vocabulary of jazz and popular music is matched by his ability writing accessible melodies and surrounding himself with astonishingl y talented sidemen.
True to Steve Martin's crack that to make a man happy give him a banjo, it just makes me happy to hear the Flecktones and their musical kindred.
Bela's technical ability, versatility, creativity, musical expression, and obvious love of the banjo can only be described as virtuosity. Plain and simple.
Bela Fleck has taken the banjo to new heights. His work with the Flecktones is awsome. Check out his LP Perpetual Motion, or Music for Two. Classic. His many projects with so many musicians is a testament to his much sought after talents, and versatility.
kdubiel6
bambanjo, do you think this is a high school band chair competition? If you want to be "better" (assuming anyone could legitimately judge that) BE ORIGINAL. You'll never be truly original if your focus is upon nothing other than being "better" than someone else.
bela flek is the greatest banjo player of all time but i will soon be better then you for that is my goal and i will never quit at it so be ready.

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