Just in case you aren’t familiar with Béla Fleck, there are some who say he’s the premiere banjo player in the world. Others claim that Béla has virtually reinvented the image and the sound of the banjo through a remarkable performing and recording career that has taken him all over the musical map and on a range of solo projects and collaborations. If you are familiar with Béla, you know that he just loves to play the banjo, and put it into unique settings.
Any world-class musician born with the names Béla (for Bartok), Anton (for Dvorak) and Leos (for Janacek) would seem destined to play classical music. Already a powerfully creative force in bluegrass, jazz, pop, rock and world beat, Béla at last made the classical connection with “Perpetual Motion”, his critically acclaimed 2001 Sony Classical recording that went on to win a pair of Grammys, including Best Classical Crossover Album, in the 44th annual Grammy Awards. Collaborating with Fleck on “Perpetual Motion” was his long time friend and colleague Edgar Meyer, a bassist whose virtuosity defies labels and also an acclaimed composer. Béla and Edgar co-wrote and performed a double concerto for banjo, bass and the Nashville Symphony, which debuted in November 2003. They also co-wrote a triple concerto for banjo, bass and tabla, with world renown tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain entitled The Melody of Rhythm.
In 2011, Béla wrote his first stand alone banjo concerto, on commission with the Nashville Symphony. This work, entitled “The Impostor”, along with his new quintet for banjo and string quartet will be released in August on the Deutche Gramaphone label.
These days he bounces between various intriguing touring situations, such as performing his concerto with symphonies, in a duo with Chick Corea, a trio with Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer, concerts with the Brooklyn Rider string quartet, duos with Abigail Washburn, with African artists such as Oumou Sangare and Toumani Diabate, in a jazz collaboration with The Marcus Roberts Trio, doing bluegrass with his old friends, and rare solo concerts. And Béla Fleck and the Flecktones still perform together, 25 years after the band’s inception.
The recipient of Multiple Grammy Awards going back to 1998, Béla Flecks’ total Grammy count is 15 Grammys won, and 30 nominations. He has been nominated in more different musical categories than anyone in Grammy history.