Jazz, world music, pop, classical crossover, country.
These are all genres in which banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck has won Grammys so far.
He earned his latest - 12th overall - in February for "Throw Down Your Heart: Africa Sessions Part 2." In 2008, Fleck traveled to Uganda, Tanzania, The Gambia and Mali to explore the roots of banjo music and record an album. The project was captured in a documentary by the same name.
Fleck, 52, who lives in Nashville, Tenn., won't have to travel so far to present his latest tunes. He and his band The Flecktones stop in York May 31 at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center.
The tour, which kicks off two nights earlier, will be the first time the original members - Fleck, bassist Victor Wooten, percussionist Roy "Futureman" Wooten and harmonica player/pianist Howard Levy - join forces for nearly two decades. Saxophonist Jeff Coffin became a Flecktone in 1997. A decade later, he toured with Dave Matthews Band and became a permanent fixture with the group after the August 2008 death of LeRoi Moore.
The Flecktones reunion sparked a new sound and a new album, "Rocket Science," which hit stores Tuesday.
Since Fleck's schedule is like his music - a frenzied fusion - he answered questions via email:
I read that "Beverly Hillbillies" inspired you to play banjo. Where does your musical inspiration come from these days? Any TV shows that you like to tune into if you get the chance? I saw that show, and it literally changed my life. These days, I get a lot of energy from listening to classical music. It's amazing stuff. I don't have any particular TV shows that I am into these days.
You grew up in New York City, which doesn't seem like bluegrass central. How did you meet other musicians? New York was a great place to learn to play the banjo. Eric Weissberg, who recorded "Dueling Banjos," was there. Tony Trischka was there. Marc Horowitz, Marty Cutler and loads of other great banjo players (were there). The folk boom was huge in New York City, and bluegrass was a big piece of that.
When did you decide to write a banjo concerto? Can you talk about the challenges you faced? I have had the chance to co-write two banjo concertos with Edgar Meyer, who really knows what he is doing. I needed to see if I could do it on my own this time, mostly for my self-respect! Luckily, a great orchestra, the Nashville Symphony, believed I might be able to create a good one and commissioned this piece - the first commissioned banjo concerto that I know of.
Can you share some of your experiences while working on the album and documentary "Throw Down Your Heart?" Going to Africa for this project was one of the greatest experiences of my life. And I was able to tour with so many (musicians) here in the states. It was wonderful. Some of them I found out about when I was in Africa, and some of them I had already heard about from home.
What helps you keep your sanity on the road, especially when traveling on different continents? The people I perform and tour with are very carefully chosen, so it is like a family when we travel. We have great times together on and off stage. Then I always bring extra work to do, whether it's editing, composing or preparing for the next musical situation that is coming up.
Do you look forward to summertime and outdoor concerts and festivals? Any stops that you are excited about in the coming months? I really do like being outdoors on summer stages. But variety is the best, so theaters, clubs, festivals, even house concerts can be fun.
Have you ever collaborated with York County's own bluegrass star Del McCoury? Yes, I was a big fan of Del's and got to play with him in the early days. A decade or so back, I had the lucky honor of getting to sing a baritone part on one of his records. That was unlikely, to say the least! We are friends.
What other musicians would you like to collaborate with someday? I am thinking about doing something with Marcus Roberts, the incredible jazz pianist. There are so many great musicians that I'd love to work with (but) nothing beats playing with the Flecktones. Playing a lot together this year - after a long time off - sounds really good to me. Reuniting with Howard Levy, who left the band in 1992, has been pretty incredible.
Do you have any interesting projects in the works? Have you been in the studio recently? The Flecktones have a brand new CD called "Rocket Science," the first one we've made with Howard since 1992. Next, I hope to record the banjo concerto.
What do you like to do to unwind when you're not on the road? Get healthy, eat right, exercise and spend time with friends. On tour, it is hard to keep up a healthy lifestyle.
- Erin McCracken, FlipSide staff
If you go
WHAT: Béla Fleck and The Flecktones
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. May 31
WHERE: Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, 50 N. George St., York
COST: $28, $34, $39
DETAILS: 846-1111 or visit www.strandcapitol.org
Béla Fleck and The Flecktones: www.flecktones.com
Béla Fleck: www.belafleck.com
Victor Wooten: www.victorwooten.com
Roy "Futureman" Wooten: www.blackmozart.com
Howard Levy: www.levyland.com
Jeff Coffin: www.jeffcoffin.com
"Throw Down Your Heart": www.throwdownyourheart.com