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Béla Fleck

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Béla Fleck (born July 10, 1958 in New York City, New York) is a Jewish American banjo player. Widely acknowledged as one of the world's most innovative and technically proficient banjo players[1], he is best known for his work with the bands New Grass Revival and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.

Life and early career

Béla Anton Leoš Fleck, who is named after famous Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, Czech composer Antonín Dvořák (Anton is the Germanic form of Antonín), and Czech composer Leoš Janáček,[2] was drawn to the banjo when he first heard Earl Scruggs play the theme song for the television show Beverly Hillbillies. He received his first banjo at age fifteen from his grandfather (1973).[3][4] He was a member of the class of 1970 at P.S. 75 (the Emily Dickinson School) in Manhattan. Later, Fleck enrolled in New York City's High School of Music and Art where he studied the French horn. He was a banjo student under Tony Trischka.

Almost immediately after high school, Fleck traveled to Boston to play with Jack Tottle, Pat Enright, and Mark Schatz in Tasty Licks. During this period, Fleck released his first solo album (1979): Crossing the Tracks and made his first foray into progressive bluegrass composition.

Fleck played on the streets of Boston with bassist Mark Schatz; and the two, along with guitarist/vocalist Glen Lawson and mandolin great Jimmy Gaudreau, formed Spectrum: the Band in 1981. Fleck toured with Spectrum during 1981. That same year, Sam Bush asked Fleck to join New Grass Revival. Fleck performed with New Grass Revival for nine years. During this time, Fleck recorded another solo album, Drive. It was nominated for a Grammy Award in the then first-time category of "Best Bluegrass Album" (1988).

During the 1980s Fleck and Bush also performed live occasionally with Doc Watson and Merle Watson in various bluegrass festivals, most notably the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Béla Fleck and the Flecktones

Béla Fleck and Victor Wooten formed Béla Fleck and the Flecktones in 1988, along with keyboardist and harmonica player Howard Levy and Wooten's percussionist brother Roy "Future Man" Wooten, who played synthesizer-based percussion. Levy left the group in 1992, making the band a trio until Saxophonist Jeff Coffin joined the group onstage part-time in 1997, eventually becoming a permanent member. His first studio recording with the band was their 1998 album Left of Cool. In 1996, he appeared on the tribute album to Hank Marvin, one of his influences, and The Shadows "Twang" playing a Shadows UK hit from the 1960s, "The Stranger".

With the Flecktones, Fleck has been nominated for and won several Grammy awards. (Cf. Grammy sections below.)

Other music and recordings

Fleck has shared Grammy wins with Asleep at the Wheel, Alison Brown, and Edgar Meyer. He has been nominated in more categories than any other musician,[2] namely country, pop, jazz, bluegrass, classical, folk, spoken word, composition, and arranging.

In 2001, Fleck collaborated with long-time friend and playing-partner Edgar Meyer to record Perpetual Motion, an album of classical material played on the banjo along with an assortment of accompanists, including John Williams, Evelyn Glennie, Joshua Bell and Gary Hoffman. The album includes selections such as Chopin's Etude Op. 10 No. 4 in C# minor, Debussy's Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum, and Paganini's Moto Perpetuo (from which is derived the name), as well as more lyrical pieces such as the first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, two of Chopin's mazurkas, and two Scarlatti keyboard sonatas. Perpetual Motion won two Grammys at the Grammy Awards of 2002 for Best Classical Crossover Album and Best Arrangement for Fleck and Meyer's arrangement of Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum. Fleck and Meyer have also composed a double concerto for banjo and bass, and performed its debut with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.[2]

Fleck names Chick Corea, Charlie Parker, and the aforementioned Earl Scruggs as influences. [5] He regards Scruggs as "certainly the best" banjo player of the three-finger style.[3]

Solo and with the Flecktones, Fleck has appeared at Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Merlefest, Montreal International Jazz Festival, Toronto Jazz Festival, Newport Folk Festival, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Bonnaroo, and Jazzfest, among others.

He has also appeared as a sideman with artists ranging from Tony Rice to Dave Matthews Band to Ginger Baker and Phish. One notable appearance with the Dave Matthews Band, along with the rest of the Flecktones, resulted in the longest singular live song in DMB history, #41, at 32:03 in length.

In 2005, while the Flecktones were on hiatus, Fleck undertook several new projects: recording with African traditional musicians; cowriting a documentary film called Bring it Home about the Flecktones' first year off in 17 years and their reunion after that time; coproducing Song of the Traveling Daughter, the debut album by Abigail Washburn (a young banjo player who mixes bluegrass and Chinese music); forming the acoustic fusion supergroup Trio! with fellows Jean-Luc Ponty and Stanley Clarke, and recording an album as a member of the Sparrow Quartet (along with Abigail Washburn, Ben Sollee, and Casey Driessen).

In late 2006, Fleck teamed up with Chick Corea to record an album, The Enchantment, released in May 2007 [6]. Fleck and Corea toured together throughout 2007.

In July 2007 at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, he appeared and jammed with Toumani Diabaté, a kora player from Mali. He is also scheduled to play the 2009 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival with Toumani Diabaté.

Fleck has also played with Malian ngoni (ancestor of the banjo) player Cheick Hamala Diabate.

In December 2007, he performed charity concerts in Germany to help promote AIDS awareness. His largest concert was held in Grosse Halle Bern on December 1, 2007.

On June 13, 2008, he performed as part of The Bluegrass Allstars, composed of bluegrass heavyweights Sam Bush, Luke Bulla, Edgar Meyer, Bryan Sutton, and Jerry Douglas at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

The next day Fleck performed with Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet also at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.

In 2009, an independent film documentary of Fleck's visit to Uganda, Tanzania, The Gambia, and Mali, was released to limited run engagements in US cities. "Throw Down Your Heart" was directed by Sascha Paladino. It was filmed during Fleck's year off from touring with the Flecktones.


See Bela Fleck discography on Wikipedia.

Grammy awards


  • 1995
    • Best Country Instrumental Performance, Hightower by Asleep at the Wheel with Béla Fleck and Johnny Gimble
  • 1996
    • Best Pop Instrumental Performance, The Sinister Minister by Béla Fleck And The Flecktones (with Sam Bush and Paul McCandless)
  • 1998
    • Best Instrumental Composition, Almost 12 by Béla Fleck And The Flecktones
  • 2000
    • Best Contemporary Jazz Album, Outbound by Béla Fleck And The Flecktones
    • Best Country Instrumental Performance, Leaving Cottondale by Alison Brown and Béla Fleck
  • 2001
    • Best Instrumental Arrangement, Doctor Gradus Ad Parnassum from Children's Corner Suite (Debussy) by Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer
    • Best Classical Crossover Album, Perpetual Motion by Béla Fleck with Edgar Meyer, Joshua Bell, and others
  • 2006
    • Best Contemporary Jazz Album, The Hidden Land by Béla Fleck And The Flecktones
  • 2008
    • Best Pop Instrumental Album, Jingle All The Way by Béla Fleck And The Flecktones

Grammy nominations

Béla Fleck has been nominated in more categories than any other musician in Grammy history.[8][9]

  • 2009
    • Best Contemporary World Music Album Throw Down Your Heart
    • Best Pop Instrumental Performance Throw Down Your Heart
    • Best Classical Crossover Album The Melody Of Rhythm
  • 2008
    • Pop Instrumental Album Jingle All The Way
    • Country Instrumental Performance Sleigh Ride (from Jingle All The Way)
  • 2006
    • Pop Instrumental Subterfuge (from The Hidden Land)
  • 2005
    • Country Instrumental Who's Your Uncle (from Best Kept Secret by Jerry Douglas)
    • Contemporary Jazz Album Soulgrass by Bill Evans
  • 2002
    • Country Instrumental Performance Bear Mountain Hop (from The Country Bears Soundtrack)
  • 2000
    • Pop Instrumental Zona Mona (from Outbound)
  • 1999
    • Bluegrass Bluegrass Sessions
  • 1998
    • Pop Instrumental Big Country (from Left Of Cool)
    • Country Instrumental The Ride (from Restless On the Farm by Jerry Douglas)
  • 1996
    • World Music Tabula Rasa
  • 1995
    • Country Instrumental Cheeseballs In Cowtown (from The Bluegrass Sessions: Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 2)
  • 1994
    • Spoken Word For Children The Creation by Amy Grant
  • 1992
    • Jazz Instrumental Magic Fingers (from UFO Tofu)
  • 1991
    • Jazz Album Flight of the Cosmic Hippo
    • Jazz Instrumental Blu-Bop
  • 1990
    • Jazz Album Bela Fleck & The Flecktones
    • Jazz Instrumental
  • 1989
    • Country Instrumental Bigfoot (from Friday Night In America by New Grass Revival
  • 1988
    • Bluegrass album Drive
  • 1987
    • Country Instrumental Metric Lips (from Hold to a Dream by New Grass Revival)
  • 1986
    • Country Instrumental Seven By Seven (from New Grass Revival by New Grass Revival)



External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Béla Fleck. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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