On a string and a prayer

Village Post - - Currents - By Ron John­son

Bela Fleck has few peers when it comes to play­ing banjo. From blue­grass to clas­si­cal and back, he con­tin­ues to push the traditional bound­aries of the in­stru­ment. He has col­lab­o­rated with other gen­re­bust­ing con­tem­po­raries, in­clud­ing Chick Corea and most re­cently with his wife Abi­gail Wash­burn. In 2017, Fleck and Wash­burn re­leased the al­bum Echo in the Val­ley, which gar­nered the duo a Grammy Award for Best Folk Al­bum. Speak­ing of cou­ples col­lab­o­ra­tions, Post City checked in with Fleck in the days, or pos­si­bly hours, ahead of the birth of the cou­ple’s new baby. Thank you! It’s very ex­cit­ing to be be­com­ing par­ents for the sec­ond time. It also feels like there’s a freight train slowly com­ing to­ward us, and we can’t get out of the way. Em­brace change! Dif­fer­ent things are be­com­ing im­por­tant to me mu­si­cally. Per­form­ing with Abi­gail has been a great way to keep our fam­ily to­gether much more of the time. I’ve loved the dif­fer­ent mu­si­cal ter­rain that we cover, which moves to­ward earthy mu­sic with com­mu­ni­ca­tion and warmth. In Toronto I’ll be per­form­ing with Bela Fleck and the Fleck­tones, my group of 30 years. This is the orig­i­nal lineup, with Vic­tor Le­monte Wooten, Fu­ture Man and Howard Levy, who left the band in 1993 and re­turned a few years back. These are my life­time mu­si­cal co­horts, and we share a lot of his­tory and love, along with a very nat­u­ral mu­si­cal in­ter­ac­tion. We started in 1988, and at that time, I was in a modern blue­grass group called New Grass Re­vival. In the course of trav­el­ling the world with this amaz­ing and pop­u­lar group, I started to run into some dream wacky col­lab­o­ra­tors. So af­ter eight years, I started play­ing with this group of rene­gades. It quickly be­came clear that this was a on­cein-a-life­time sit­u­a­tion, and we went full time in 1990. We meet at rhythm and we take it from there. I think we both are in­spired by strong, in­tri­cate rhythms, so we can con­nect in that depart­ment and let the har­mony grow out of it. He is a ma­jor in­flu­ence for me. I fell hard for the banjo when I was a kid — maybe five years old. I was watch­ing TV and The Bev­erly Hill­bil­lies came on. I was struck by that banjo mu­sic — which was the great Earl Scruggs. When I was 15, my grand­fa­ther bought me a banjo, and I was off like a rocket. Chick Corea is a biggy; Tony Trischka, my banjo guru, for the modern; Earl Scruggs, my banjo guru for the traditional; and Char­lie Parker for some rea­son al­ways blew me away.

Bela Fleck and the Fleck­tones play Dan­forth Mu­sic Hall on June 27

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