By RFT Music
By Drew Ailes
By Bob McMahon
By Allison Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
Mentions of eclecticism are a given in any reference to banjo player Béla Fleck, and it's easy to understand why. Fleck has been stretching the possibilities of the banjo for a couple of decades now, exploring fusions of bluegrass, rock, jazz and just about any other musical style you care to name -- and he shows no signs of slowing down.Fleck may set a record for musical diversity. Last year, he and the Flecktones released Outbound, the group's widest-ranging recording ever. In addition to delivering the usual mix-and-match of styles on the banjo, Fleck plays an instrument that combines a banjo head with a sitar fretboard. As if band members Roy Wooten's bass, Jeff Coffin's horn attack and Victor "Future Man" Wooten's sci-fi drumitar weren't enough, Fleck added a grab bag of guests -- ranging from ex-Yes vocalist Jon Anderson and singer Shawn Colvin to steel-pan drummer Andy Narell.
Later this month, Fleck releases his first classical recording, Perpetual Motion, featuring banjo-driven takes on Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Debussy -- a brave move, but just because your label says you can make a recording of classical pieces on your banjo, and just because your band has the skill to play tunes that throw together a laundry list of world-beat sounds, does that mean you should?
Only if the result is more than the sum of its parts. Fortunately, the Flecktones won't be dragging along a chamber orchestra, Jon Anderson or other musical baggage on Thursday night. It'll just be the four of them, doing what they do best -- entertaining an audience, challenging each other and creating intriguing musical connections in the process.