Bela Fleck & the Flecktones have accomplished a singular feat, that of creating an entirely new genre. A fan called it Blu-bop, which seems appropriate. Their music combines the familiar sounds of bluegrass with whatever else comes along, be it jazz, classical, rap or “The Ballad of Jed Clampett”. In lesser hands, these combinations would almost certainly be disastrous, but thanks to the superlative talent of Bela on banjo and assorted banjoesque electronic devices, along with his sidemen, each with a unique instrument/approach, the result is wonderfully pleasing.
This two-CD set, recorded live over a period of five years, provides an excellent benchmark of their work. Joined by such luminaries as Wynton Marsalis and Chick Corea, Bela and company never cease to please. The music was recorded all over the world and at times reflects the musical culture of the location, particularly the recordings from South Africa and the Far East. This is not World Music, mind you, but the music manages to incorporate the nuances of the recording site into the Flecktones’ own unique style.
Fans of the Flecktones will rejoice at the inclusion of Howard Levy on many of the cuts. Levy, an extremely gifted keyboardist and harmonica ace, stopped touring with the band several years ago, and his presence on this release is electric, particularly on “The Sinister Minister”, which in itself justifies the purchase of this CD.