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April 2006

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
The Hidden Land
Columbia Jazz

Following on the heels of 2003's masterful triple CD, Little Worlds, and a subsequent tour through 2004, the members of the Flecktones took a year off to pursue personal projects. The Flecktones eventually got back together to record this stripped-down outing entirely in Fleck's home studio in Nashville. In true Flecktones fashion, it is wildly eclectic and teeming with all the complex parts, disciplined stop-time unison lines, odd time signatures and cleverly superimposed rhythms that have become a signature of this extraordinary band. Future Man's use of a hybrid drum kit including a snare, bass drum and cajon in addition to his electronic synth-axe drumitar lends a warmer, more organic quality to the session.

The band establishes a remarkable rapport on the opener, a Bach fugue, then swings persuasively on "P'lod in the House." Wooten showcases his astonishing Jaco Pastorius-influenced solo chops on the dynamic "Labyrinth" and also on "Weed Whacker," a piece that morphs from swinging uptempo Latin jazz to bluegrass-funk featuring Fleck on wah-wah banjo. On the adventurous Indian flavored raga "Chennai," featuring Tuvan throat singer Congar ol'Ondar, Fleck's banjo bears an uncanny resemblance to the virtuosic electric mandolin playing of Shakti's U. Shrinivas. And on "Subterfuge" he dials in nasty distortion to get a distinctly electric guitar timbre on his banjo.

Producer Fleck neatly ties it all together with seamless edits that allow one tune to flow smoothly into the next to lend a suitelike feel to the proceedings. The DualDisc release includes the Sascha Paladino film Bring It Home, which cleverly blurs the lines between documentary, satire and clinic.

Originally published in April 2006
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