Béla Fleck: My Bluegrass Heart
with Michael Cleveland, Sierra Hull, Justin Moses, Mark Schatz & Bryan Sutton
Although he’s firmly rooted in the bluegrass tradition, banjo virtuoso and composer Béla Fleck has never felt remotely contained by it. Born and raised in New York and named for Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, he fell for the banjo after hearing Earl Scruggs play a version of the Beverly Hillbillies theme song, starting on the instrument when was 15. He moved to Boston after high school, the first steps on a path to the center of the progressive bluegrass universe that emerged in the 1970s.
Fleck eventually became a key member of New Grass Revival and, while fostering this new sound, collaborated with musicians as diverse as folk legend Doc Watson and Grateful Dead kingpin Jerry Garcia. However, it was when he formed the Flecktones with electric bassist Victor Wooten in 1988, and buoyed by the enthusiasm of the jam band scene, that he took the banjo and bluegrass to new places.
Still, as long as he’s expanded boundaries, Fleck has never ditched his abiding love for the music’s traditional side. As if to remind listeners of his foundations, he’s sporadically made recordings and toured featuring some of the hottest pickers in bluegrass. Last year he released the latest such transmission with the appropriately titled My Bluegrass Heart. This time, instead of jamming only with his peers as he’s done in the past, Fleck has invited a younger generation of players to join him.
For this special concert the banjo great is joined both by veteran colleagues like bassist Mark Schatz, whose relationship stretches back to Fleck’s Boston days, when they both played in the unfortunately named Tasty Licks, and guitarist Bryan Sutton, along with rising hotshots like singer and mandolinist Sierra Hull and her multi-instrumentalist husband Justin Moses, and the fiery traditional fiddler Michael Cleveland.