HAPPY 52nd BIRTHDAY, MR. FLECK!
No one has done more to innovate and expand the language of the banjo in the past 50 years than Béla Fleck. From his early rise with New Grass Revival to the truly alien invention of Béla Fleck and the flecktones to his international exploration with Toumani Diabate to his flirtation with jazz alongside Chick Corea to his more subtle recent adventures with Edgar Meyer & Zakir Hussan and with his wife Abigail Washburn and The Sparrow Quartet, Fleck remains one of the most fascinating, sonically curious musicians alive. His refusal to remain in any one box has kept fans and critics guessing for decades, and it's a fool's game to predict what he'll do next. Fleck turns 52 today and shows no signs of slowing, and we're all the richer for it.
We begin with a vintage slice of Béla with his New Grass buddies. Lordy, the man can pick!
The Flecktones are one of the most elegant, technical units to ever make music. Most players are simply incapable of doing what they do. Here's the band at their pretty best.
The combination of Fleck, Abigail Washburn, Casey Driessen and Ben Sollee in the Sparrow Quartet is quiet, interlocking magic. This is the quartet playing atop the Great Wall of China.
And a second dose of Sparrow with a splendid traveler's tune.
Traditional music had a way of jumping to life in New Grass' hands.
This is a conversation that's a delight to eavesdrop on.
Here's Fleck in 1999 playing with the Dave Matthews Band.
Aaron Copeland could never have imagined this would happen to his composition!
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