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Bela Fleck and the African Project

If there is one word that might sum up jazz, it is improvisation. But that quality is not unique to jazz alone. Musical styles from around the world feature improvisation as a critical element. And it was improvisation that played such an important role and made for some of the best moments in the African Project concert hosted by Bela Fleck in Kansas City’s Uptown Theater, a lovingly restored Mediterranean-style movie palace (famous a few decades back for its copyrighted “FragaTone” process that pumped smells into the theatre to “enhance” the entertainment experience).

Fleck has made a career out of hopping across musical boundaries, so it was really just a matter of time before he found himself hopping across the ocean to discover the music of Africa. It was a logical step as well, as the banjo traces its origins to that continent. A small bit of priming, hearing a CD by acclaimed Malian singer Oumou Sangare, and his fate was sealed.

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