Bela Fleck first gained noteriety as a progressive Bluegrass picker before diving into jazzier waters with the formation of his band the Flecktones. The NYC native was always drawn to Jazz greats like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane even as he was blossoming as a Bluegrass picker. He and the Flecktones play a form of fusion that touches base with many diverse musical elements. I'm going to enjoy looking at various stages of Fleck's career, with much emphasis on his work with the Flecktones. As always, I ask for your input and views of Fleck, pro and con.
|Bio: Bela Fleck|
Banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck was born in New York City in 1958 and began playing banjo at age 15, though he was influenced more by jazz artists such as Charlie Parker and John Coltrane than traditional bluegrass banjo players. After a brief stint in the late '70s with a Boston-based group called Tasty Licks, Fleck worked with the bluegrass bands Spectrum and New Grass Revival, building an international reputation as one of the finest banjo players in the world. In 1989 he recorded a PBS special backed by an all-star group dubbed the Flecktones -- harmonica player/keyboardist Howard Levy, bassist Victor Lemonte Wooten, and "synth axe drumitar" player Roy "Futureman" Wooten -- with whom he later recorded a self-titled album.Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, was picked up by Warner Bros., and Fleck left New Grass Revival to take the Flecktones full-time. Their 1991 follow-up, Flight of the Cosmic Hippo, reached No. 1 on the Contemporary Jazz charts.
After the release of 1993's UFO Tofu, which blended world beat with bluegrass and R&B, the Flecktones developed a huge neo-hippie following, even jamming onstage with Phish from time to time. Around that same time the Flecktones became a trio with the departure of Levy; Bela Fleck switched to synth banjo, while Victor Wooten introduced a tenor/stereo bass. 1993's Three Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest featured cameos by Bruce Hornsby and Branford Marsalis, while the following year Fleck recorded a solo album, Tales from an Acoustic Planet.