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Across the Imaginary Divide: Béla Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio

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Across the Imaginary Divide‘s stylistic blend works best when tilting in banjoist Béla Fleck’s direction. It’s not that pianist Marcus Roberts falls short in either playing or concept, embracing old-school traditions as well as modernism. Far from it. Roberts seems far more comfortable on Fleck’s turf-his trademarked fusion of bluegrass, jazz and rock-than vice versa.

“Petunia,” for example, finds Fleck charging like a jackrabbit through a straight-up bluegrass jam. Roberts not only keeps up with him, he counters Fleck’s workout with a beautifully constructed blues, then trades places so that the banjo plays the blues and the piano plays the workout. Elsewhere the album evokes Fleck’s fusion approach. “One Blue Truth” is a midtempo stroll built on a gentle rock backbeat; bassist Rodney Jordan splits the theme with Fleck, who crafts a melodic, feathery-toned improvisation, which Roberts follows with a masterfully sweet solo that alludes to Fleck’s.

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