January 15, 2011

Bela Fleck & the Flecktones

Sunday, November 22, 2009 – I got back to my house from a morning in Manhattan at about 5:00PM. It had been a very eventful weekend. On Saturday, I went to see a Star Wars concert at Nassau Coliseum and Sunday morning had brought me into the city for a matinee of Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas show. I was ready to settle into a quiet night and rest up for work the next day; some hot tea and the comfort of my sofa sounded ideal. (Un)fortunately, that scenario was not to be. At about 5:10, my telephone rang...

“Hello,” I heard my tired voice say.

“Jay, I have a complimentary ticket for you to tonight’s Bela Fleck & the Flecktones concert at Tilles Center. Fourth row. Wanna go?” the friendly voice on the other end answered. It's amazing how the bringing of such news can immediately revitalize a weary spirit. Needless to say, I was in my car twenty minutes later and out for the evening.

For those of you not familiar with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, they are a Jazz Fusion group, formed in 1989. The band is fronted by banjo player, Bela Fleck. He is considered by many to be the world’s premier banjo player. Though the banjo is an instrument that is traditionally associated with Bluegrass music, Fleck's approach to the instrument is quite different. I have never before heard the banjo played in such diverse styles of music and with such astounding technique. It is refreshing to see.

The drummer for the group goes simply by the name of Futureman. The amazing thing about him is that he doesn’t play the drums at all! He invented an instrument called the Drumitar. It looks like some type of strange guitar, but sounds like drums, with all of the dynamics and ambiance of a live kit. Very inventive, to say the least, and I really appreciate his boundless creativity.

The band is rounded out by world-class bassist, Victor Wooten, and pianist/harmonica player, Howard Levy.

I took my seat in the fourth row and watched in amazement as this ensemble played through an eclectic collection of compositions and jammed the evening away. Probably not for casual music listeners, their sound is often intense and challenging, ranging from the softly melodic to stellar improvisations. It is so wonderful to see a group of virtuoso musicians taking their instruments to levels that only the imagination can reach. I immensely enjoyed their performance.

After the show was over, I went back stage and got to hang out with the members of the group for a little while. They were all very gracious and ready to talk about their love for music and performing. It was a great ending to an incredibly busy weekend.

“I can do everything
through him who gives me strength.”

~Philippians 4:13