On a string and a prayer
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