Bela Fleck

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Chick Corea and Bela Fleck
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Chick Corea and Bela Fleck
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Chick Corea and Bela Fleck
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Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
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Bela Fleck in performance at Litchfield Jazz Festival 2010
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Bela Fleck gives a Master Class for Litchfield Jazz Campers and Litchfield Jazz Fest attendees.
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Bela Fleck
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Jason Marsalis, Rodney Jordan, Béla Fleck, and Marcus Roberts at 2011 Savannah Music Festival
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Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
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Just in case you aren't familiar with Béla Fleck, there are some who say he's the premiere banjo player in the world.. Others claim that Béla has virtually reinvented the image and the sound of the banjo through a remarkable performing and recording career that has taken him all over the musical map and on a range of solo projects and collaborations. If you are familiar with Béla, you know that he just loves to play the banjo, and put it into unique settings.

Born and raised in New York City, Béla began his musical career playing the guitar. In the early 1960's, while watching the Beverly Hillbillies, the bluegrass sounds of Flatt & Scruggs flowed out of the TV set and into his young brain. Earl Scruggs's banjo style hooked Béla's interest immediately. "It was like sparks going off in my head" he later said.

It wasn't until his grandfather bought him a banjo in September of '73, that it became his full time passion. That week, Béla entered New York City's, High School of Music and Art. He began studies on the French horn but was soon demoted to the chorus, due his lack of musical aptitude. Since the banjo wasn't an offered elective at Music & Art, Béla sought lessons through outside sources. Erik Darling, Marc Horowitz, and Tony Trischka stepped up and filled the job. Béla joined his first band, "Wicker's Creek" during this period. Living in NYC, Béla was exposed to a wide variety of musical experiences.. One of the most impressive was a concert by "Return to Forever" featuring Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke. This concert encouraged further experimenting with bebop and jazz on the banjo, signs of things to come.

Several months after high school, Béla moved to Boston to play with Jack Tottle's Tasty Licks. While in Boston, Béla continued his jazz explorations, made two albums with Tasty Licks, and at 19 years old made his first solo banjo album Crossing the Tracks, on Rounder Records. This is where he first played with future musical partners Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas.

After the break up of Tasty Licks, Béla spent a summer on the streets of Boston playing with bass player, Mark Schatz. Mark and Béla moved to Lexington, KY to form Spectrum, which included Jimmy Gaudreau, Glen Lawson, and Jimmy Mattingly. Spectrum toured until 1981. While in Spectrum, he and Mark traveled to California and Nashville to record his second album Natural Bridge with David Grisman, Mark O'Connor, Ricky Skaggs, Darol Anger, Mike Marshall, and other great players.

In 1981, Béla was invited to join the progressive bluegrass band New Grass Revival, lead by Sam Bush on mandolin, fiddle and vocals. With the addition of Pat Flynn on guitar and NGR veteran John Cowan on bass and vocals, New Grass Revival took bluegrass music to new limits, exciting audiences and critics alike. Through the course of five albums, they charted new territory with their blend of bluegrass, rock and country music. The relentless national and international touring by NGR exposed Béla's banjo playing to the bluegrass/acoustic music world.

(During the 9 years Béla spent with NGR he continued to record a series of solo albums for Rounder, including the ground breaking 1988 album "Drive". He also collaborated with Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer and Mark O'Connor in an acoustic super group called Strength in Numbers. The MCA release, "The Telluride Sessions", is also considered an evolutionary statement by the acoustic music community.

Towards the end of the New Grass years, Béla and Howard Levy crossed paths at the Winipeg Folk Festival. Next came a phone call from a friend who wanted to introduce him to an amazing bass player. Victor Lemonte Wooten played some licks on the phone for Béla and the second connection was made. In 1988 Dick Van Kleek, Artistic Director for the PBS Lonesome Pine Series based in Louisville, Kentucky, offered Béla a solo show.

Béla put several musical sounds together with his banjo, a string quartet, his Macintosh computer and also the more jazz based combo. Howard and Victor signed on for the concert, but the group still lacked a drummer. The search was on for an unusual drummer/percussionist. Victor offered up his brother Roy Wooten, later to become known as FutureMan. Roy was developing the Drumitar (Drum - Guitar), it was then in its' infancy. A midi trigger device, the drumitar allowed FutureMan to play the drums with his fingers triggering various sampled sounds. The first rehearsal held at Béla's Nashville home was hampered by a strong thunderstorm that knocked the electricity out for hours. The four continued on with an acoustic rehearsal and the last slot on the TV show became the first performance of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.

Next came the self-titled CD, which Béla financed himself. The recording attracted the attention of the folks at Warner Brothers Records. It was released in 1990, dubbed a"blu-bop" mix of jazz and bluegrass, and soon became a commercially successful disc. The album was Grammy nominated, and their second recording "Flight of the Cosmic Hippo" followed suit. Howard Levy toured and recorded with the Flecktones till the end of 1992. After several years as a trio and touring with special guests, saxophonist Jeff Coffin joined the Tones. Famed for a non-stop touring schedule, the Flecktones have reached more than 500,000 audience members yearly from 2001 on.

Still releasing albums and touring, the Tones have garnered a strong and faithful following among jazz and new acoustic fans. They have shared the stage with Dave Mathews Band, Sting, Bonnie Raitt and the Grateful Dead, among many others, made several appearances on The Tonight Show in the Johnny Carson days and the Jay Leno days, as well as Arsenio Hall, and Conan O'Brian. Béla also appeared on Saturday Night Live and David Letterman's show as well.

Although the first Flecktones albums were created live-in-the-studio, the group went on to experiment with overdubs and guest artists on later albums, with contributions from artists as diverse as Chick Corea, Bruce Hornsby, Branford Marsalis, John Medeski, Andy Statman, the Alash Group and Dave Matthews. The Flecktones went on tour with Dave Matthews Band in 1996 and 1997, and Fleck is featured on several tracks on DMB's 1998 album "Before these Crowded Streets." In 2003, Béla Fleck & the Flecktones released the landmark three-disc set "Little Worlds" simultaneously with a highlights disc entitled Ten From Little Worlds.

In 2006 the band released The Hidden Land, which won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 2007.

In 2008, Jingle All The Way, the band's holiday album was released, and in 2009 it was voted best Pop Instrumental Album at the Grammies.

Any world-class musician born with the names Béla (for Bartok), Anton (for Dvorak) and LÈos (for Janacek) would seem destined to play classical music. Already a powerfully creative force in bluegrass, jazz, pop, rock and world beat, Béla at last made the classical connection with "Perpetual Motion", his critically acclaimed 2001 Sony Classical recording that went on to win a pair of Grammys, including Best Classical Crossover Album, in the 44th annual Grammy Awards.

(Collaborating with Fleck on "Perpetual Motion" was his long time friend and colleague Edgar Meyer, a bassist whose virtuosity defies labels and also an acclaimed composer. In the wake of that album's release, Fleck & Meyer came up with the idea of a banjo/bass duo, which they developed and refined during a concert tour of the US. Live recordings from that tour are the basis for their latest Sony Classical recording "Music For Two" which also includes a bonus DVD featuring a documentary film by Sascha Paladino (Fleck's brother) that captures the duo's collaboration and crafting of repertoire while on tour. Béla and Edgar also co-wrote and performed a double concerto for banjo, bass and the Nashville Symphony, which debuted in November 2003.

The recipients of Multiple Grammy Awards going back to 1998, Béla Flecks' total Grammy count is 11 Grammys won, and 27 nominations. He has been nominated in more different categories than anyone in Grammy history.

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Artist’s website

http://www.belafleck.com/

Articles on Bela Fleck

04/04/13    The Wilmeth Wyvern    By Tom Wilmeth

Concert Review: Chick Corea & Béla Fleck, Milwaukee, April 2, 2013

08/07/12    Albums    By Michael J. West

Béla Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio
Across the Imaginary Divide

09/02/11    News    By Jeff Tamarkin

Béla Fleck to Perform Concerto for Banjo and Orchestra

07/08/11    Concerts    By Christopher Loudon

TD Toronto Jazz Festival 2011: To Jazz or Not to Jazz?

06/23/11    Features    By Jeff Tamarkin

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones: Life in Eleven

06/14/11    Concerts    By Evan Haga

Dr. John, The Meters, Pres Hall & More at Bonnaroo

05/24/11    Albums    By Mitch Myers

Rocket Science
Bela Fleck & the Flecktones

05/24/11    Albums    By Mitch Myers

Rocket Science
Bela Fleck & the Flecktones

05/03/11    Concerts    By Perry Tannenbaum

Savannah Music Festival: An All-Star Galaxy

03/04/11    News    By Lee Mergner

Festival Preview: Savannah Music Festival

10/28/10    Innerviews    By Anil Prasad

Bela Fleck: Nomadic Instincts

05/06/10    News    By Lee Mergner

Litchfield Jazz Festival Celebrates 15th Anniversary with Blockbuster Lineup

05/04/09    Concerts    By Bill Milkowski

Zakir Hussain’s ‘Perspectives’ at Carnegie Hall

Concerts    By Perry Tannenbaum

Savannah Music Festival 2009

04/14/09    Concerts    By Chris Heim

Bela Fleck and the African Project

07/03/07    Concerts    By Bill Milkowski

Syracuse Jazz Fest

July/August 2007    Features    By Bill Meredith

Chick Corea and Béla Fleck: Rules Don’t Apply

July/August 2007    Albums    By Will Smith

The Enchantment
Chick Corea & Béla Fleck

April 2006    Albums    By Bill Milkowski

The Hidden Land
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

April 2006    Albums    By Bill Milkowski

The Hidden Land
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

January/February 2006    DVDs    By Larry Appelbaum

Rendezvous in New York
Chick Corea

08/02/04    Concerts    By Larry Appelbaum

Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival 2004

November 2003    Currents    By Lucy Tauss

Little Worlds
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

10/26/02    Concerts    By Chris Walker

Stanley Clarke Scholarship Concert

May 2002    Albums    By Lucy Tauss

Live at the Quick
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

12/07/01    Concerts    By Bill Milkowski

"Made In America": An All-Star Jazz Benefit

November 2000    Currents    By Hilarie Grey

Outbound
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

April 2000    Currents    By Hilarie Grey

Greatest Hits of the 20th Century
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

May 1998    Albums    By Nancy Ann Lee

Uncommon Ritual
Edgar Meyer/Béla Fleck/Mike Marshall

March 1997    Albums    By Deni Kasrel

Live Art
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

Albums

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Live Art

Warner Brothers
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Greatest Hits of the 20th Century

Warner Brothers
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Outbound

Columbia Jazz

Left of Cool

Warner Brothers
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Live at the Quick

Columbia Jazz
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Little Worlds

Columbia Jazz

Ten From Little Worlds

Columbia Jazz

Music for Two

Sony Classical
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The Hidden Land

Columbia Jazz

The Hidden Land

Columbia Jazz
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The Enchantment

Concord Records
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Uncommon Ritual

Sony Classical
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Rocket Science

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