Hear Bela Fleck's Full 'Juno Concerto' With the Colorado Symphony (Album Stream)
Forget everything you think you know about Bela Fleck for a moment. This week, the banjo master releases his latest album, Juno Concerto, a symphonic composition that's often chaotic, sometimes esoteric, but overall innovative for its use of the ole' five-string in conjunction with the Colorado Symphony. It'll make you rethink everything you thought you knew about the traditionally bluegrass instrument.
"This was a piece that was written from the point of view of a new father," Fleck tells me over email. "Everything was different, new things were important to me, and I was inspired. I also wanted to give my son Juno something expressly for him."
Fleck wrote Juno after learning a few important lessons through his first foray into classic composition, 2011's The Impostor, which didn't necessarily connect with its audience. After performing the piece live nearly 50 times, he wanted to take another stab at an original concerto.
"This is my favorite [album of mine]," he says. "I feel that I achieved things that I had been trying for, but never quite pulled off. A lot of it has to do with learning to develop musical material, a concept that I barely understood until recently. Rather than creating interest by constantly bringing in new ideas, the concept would be to do much more with one idea, develop and grow it into a fully cohesive effort."
Juno is divided into three parts, with "I" taking on a decidedly American classical aethstetic, coupling impressive banjo runs with millitary snares and anxious flutes. "II" airs on Fleck's romantic side, which sometimes reminiscent of Barbar. The movement begins with flourishing strings and clarinet, before giving in to mathematical trickery via the banjo.
"On the performing side, I tried to write something that was very natural on the banjo and emphasized flow — which banjo does very well," Fleck adds. "In previous works I tried to show things that didn’t seem obvious or even possible on the banjo, and while it was rewarded, these pieces were very hard to play. This one just goes!"
The third movement is an all-out assault, showcasing Fleck's immense sense of melody and cinematic style. The new record also features two pieces for banjo and string quartet, performed with Brooklyn Rider.
Juno Concerto is out tomorrow via Rounder Records. Check out the entire album stream below.