With Bela Fleck And The Flecktones, It Actually Is Rocket Science
The last few years, Bela Fleck has been without the Flecktones, but still continuing to experience and experiment all over the world. We even saw Bela sing a bit during his annual appearance with the Telluride House Band last summer:
During his time away from the Flecktones, Bela's been playing with a host of talented musicians. One of them was playing an instrument that would make even Future Man go, "Hhhmmm?" Here's Bela at Telluride 2009 with Toumani Diabate:
I've enjoyed all of Bela's musical adventures. His gentle, open spirit fits so well with his awesome virtuosity. His respect for his fellow musicians comes shining through in all of his projects. But in my mind, his primary collaborators will always be the Flecktones. As I listened to Bela sing at last year's Telluride I couldn't help wondering if we were going to see another Flecktones project or tour anytime soon. A few months ago, he let us know that both were going to happen, and we now have a new album, Rocket Science, and a tour (I'll be seeing them at Telluride next month). To boot, we have Howard Levy back in the fold as a Flecktone.
The new album is a gift for Bela's fans. Moreover, Rocket Science is just that - an extraordinary collection of tunes by unbelievably talented musicians at the height of their craft - a real science project. At the same time, it's accessible to those of us who don't know the "science" all that well, but know we like the sound it produces. Being in the latter category, I'll leave it for someone more knowledgeable to explain the technical side of this jazz album that features banjo, keyboards, harmonica, bass, percussion and Future Man's drumitar. For me, it's enough to simply enjoy it.
Rocket Science is at once a new and a familiar listening experience. There's that unmistakable banjo as the musical backbone of an upbeat Gravity Time right out of the gate. Prickly Pear is funky while Joyful Spring is light, simple and pretty. The banjo is paired with Howard Levy's harmonica on Falani, one of my favorite tracks on the album. Keyboards take a central role in Sweet Pomegranates. The last track, Bottle Rocket, is the Flecktone full meal deal, upsized. All the players find their stride in this amazing piece, which will almost certainly find its way into the Flecktones' concert playlist.
I've got Bottle Rocket on right now as I type these words, thinking about hearing Bela Fleck and the Flecktones fill Town Park with sound next month for the first time in several years. That'll be a reunion worth attending.
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