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Incredibly diverse

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
Pabst Theatre
Milwaukee, WI
Aug. 10, 2007
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones Bela Fleck and the Flecktones Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

Story by Matt Schwenke
Photos by Matt & Andy Schwenke

Surrounding a banjo in jazz sounds and a jazz arrangement in bluegrass sounds, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones have been consistently creating curious sounds since their 1990 self-titled debut. With their eighth studio album The Hidden Land receiving a Grammy award this year for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, after Fleck and the band have been collectively nominated for or been awarded Grammies in bluegrass, classical crossover, country, instrumental, pop, world music and even spoken word categories, they have proven to be a band that is not only incredibly talented, but also incredibly diverse-- falling in between the gaps of many labels.

Amidst a set that seemed to cull sounds from the whole globe over and on into the cosmos, Fleck paused between songs to ask the crowd what they thought of the band being put in the contemporary jazz category. The crowd responded with an odd, indecisive murmur, to which Fleck replied, "Yeah, we don't know either." While the crowd wasn't sure how to answer the question of classification, there was no question in their response to the band's first set which included the world music stylings of "Sleeper," the outright scorching jazz of "P'Lod in the House," and the super funky "Scratch & Sniff." An extended solo from bassist Victor Wooten, which began with his live standard "Amazing Grace" in harmonics and evolved in to an expressive display that featured looping and a bit of showmanship for good measure, also received much applause.

Synthaxe drumitarer Futureman would open the second set with a journey in rhythm, as he switched from hand percussion, to drum set to his trademark creation-- the synthaxe drumitar-- to a new piano-like instrument and a combination of all of the above. As the rest of the band gradually joined on stage, they seemingly without cue, snapped into the swaying "Lochs of Dread," which featured Bela using a cosmic effect on his banjo and saxophonist Jeff Coffin making his horn bark as the jam progressed. A zesty performance of "Sunset Road" stood out in the second set, as did Bela's solo virtuoso performance on banjo to end the set. An encore of "Earth Jam" with Coffin laying down some dual-sax riffs, rousted a few dancers from their seats and the near-spiritual offering of "Shanti," left the crowd on a contemplative note, but assured of the calibre of artistry they had just witnessed.
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

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