Bela Fleck & The Flecktones at the Lowell Summer Music Series on August 31

A review of Bela Fleck & The Flecktones at the Lowell Summer Music Series on August 31, 2007

, Editor-in-Chief

So many bands today claim they cannot be categorized. Too many band bios read something like: “this band fits no single genre” or “this band refuses to fit any mold.” It all sounds good on paper, but take a listen and in most cases you’ll find that the statement falls short from the truth. Then there is Bela Fleck.&

Yes, Fleck is the preeminent banjo player in the world today but trying to find this man’s “genre” is tougher than proving that Barry Bond’s never used steroids. Over the past 20 years, Fleck has been nominated for a Grammy in more categories than any other artist in history. His latest group, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, came to Lowell on Friday night and delivered a set that was much more than the jazz they are credited with, matching the diversity of Fleck himself.

The band’s show at Boarding House Park in Lowell as part of the “Lowell Summer Music Series” was a delight for all ages. Individually, each member of the band brought their own talent to display during numerous solos but collectively the band shined through two sets. Citing the band’s recent Grammy victory last year, at one point Fleck remarked, “now that we know we’re a ‘contemporary jazz band.’ ” However, the band’s set crossed multiple genres from blues to bluegrass.

The band kicked the night off with “Big Country,” off 1998’s Left Of Cool. “Labyrinth” was an early highlight but it was bassist Victor Wooten who stole the spotlight in the opening hour with a magnificent solo. Using an array of pedal loops, Wooten performed with such technical virtuosity that he simply left those in attendance marveling in awe. Even when Fleck returned to the stage, all he could say was, “well that was pretty much awesome.” The band then closed out their first set with a stellar rendition of “Kaleidoscope.”

Wooten’s brother, percussionist “Future Man” opened the second set with a solo that touched everything from his main kit and extended to bongos, a cajon box drum, and even his own “drumitar” (an instrument he created, a kind of synthesizer/drum machine meets guitar contraption). “Sleeper” flowed into “Hurricane Camile,” which was accompanied by a fall of mist, though the rain held off for the show. Saxophonist Jeff Coffin was also in fine form throughout the set, in which he also played flute and clarinet. “Subterfuge,” off last year’s The Hidden Land (winner of this year\’s Grammy award for “Best Contemporary Jazz Album”), was undeniably the best tune of the night. It was a moment where each of the Flecktone’s spheres gelled to perfection and the audience couldn’t help but smile.

To close out the set, Fleck sat alone and delivered a remarkably entertaining acoustic banjo solo of his finest work. The band returned for an encore performance of “Earth Jam,” that was just as the name indicates, the mother of all jobs (example – even Coffin played two saxophones at once).

Overall, fans in Lowell were treated with a thoroughly entertaining show that displayed the best of jazz…. and so many other genres too.

Leave a Reply