Just in case you aren't familiar with Béla Fleck, there are some who say he's the world’s premier banjo player. 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, often reimagining it in unique settings.
The 15-time Grammy Award winner has been nominated in more categories than any other artist in Grammy history, and remains a powerfully creative force globally in bluegrass, jazz, classical pop, rock and world beat.
His groundbreaking quartet Béla Fleck & The Flecktones is celebrating 30 years with a North American tour in the summer of 2018. Fleck and his wife Abigail Washburn took home the 2016 Grammy for Best Folk Album, and released the acclaimed follow up LP Echo in the Valley in 2017.
The impact of fatherhood sparked Juno Concerto, a piece for banjo and orchestra, recorded with the Colorado Symphony and conducted by José Luis Gomez. Companion pieces to the Juno Concerto include “Griff” (G riff), featuring Béla with the Brooklyn Rider string quartet.
Any world-class musician born with the names Béla (for Bartok), Anton (for Dvorak) and Leos (for Janacek) would seem destined to play classical music. Fleck 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. Collaborating with Fleck on Perpetual Motion was his long-time friend and colleague, Edgar Meyer, an amazing bassist/composer whose virtuosity defies labels.
In 2009, Béla produced the award-winning documentary and recordings, Throw Down Your Heart, where he journeyed across Africa to research the origins of the banjo.
In 2011, Fleck premiered his first stand-alone banjo concerto, The Impostor, with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, which commissioned the work. It has now been performed over 50 times worldwide.
These days, Fleck performs in an astonishing variety of contexts: his concertos, a duo with Chick Corea, tonight’s trio with Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain and guest Rakesh Chaurasia, with the Brooklyn Rider string quartet, in banjo duet with Abigail Washburn, banjo and mandolin duet with Chris Thile, and occasionally back to bluegrass with his old friends Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Bryan Sutton, and others. He collaborates with African artists such as Oumou Sangare and Toumani Diabate, in a jazz setting with The Marcus Roberts Trio, and with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, who continue to perform together 30 years after the band’s inception. Béla has recently accepted a commission to create his third concerto, which premiered 2018 in New Orleans.