Bela Fleck

Bela Fleck

A World Musician

I think Bela Fleck is a major figure in world music. Widely considered the best banjo player ever, he travels the world making all kinds of music and jamming with many diverse musicians.

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His main group, the Flecktones, defy categorization but can be described as fusion jazz. I think their best work is Live Art, a live double album with many guests. Bassist Victor Wooten is considered by many to be the best bassist alive, heir to Jaco Pastorius. His brother Futureman plays the synthtar, a hand held drum machine played with programmable pads. The fourth member has either been Saxophonist Jeff Coffin, now with the Dave Matthews Band, or current member keyboard player Howard Levy.

I’ve seen the Flecktones in concert several times. They have always blown me away. Also I’ve seen Bela without his usual band. In the late 90’s he toured with Sandip Burman, an Indian tabla player. I saw Victor Wooten play with Sandip as well a few years later. Both of these shows were in very small bars. I even got to shake Bela’s hand after the show.

Then at the first Bonnaroo in 2002 I saw Bela’s duet with bassist Edgar Meyer. They played mostly classical music with lots of improvisation. These two are true virtuosos, as is evident from their album Music for Two.

After that was the first ever Bonnaroo superjam, led by Bela and featuring Robert Randolph and musicians from Galactic, North Mississippi Allstars, String Cheese Incident, and more. It was a spectacular, fully improvised show.

Of course, as a banjoist Bela is almost obligated to play bluegrass. It was how he got his start, and he continues to play with the Bluegrass elite in groups like Strength in Numbers.

So if you are a fan of jazz, classical, bluegrass, or world music, you will probably enjoy Bela Fleck and his massive musical output.