Fleck's banjo playing really is 'Rocket Science' - Omaha.com
go logo
article photo
article photo
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones are, from left to right, Victor Wooten, Bela Fleck, Howard Levy, and Futureman.


MUSIC

Fleck's banjo playing really is 'Rocket Science'
By Kevin Coffey
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER


If your only exposure to the banjo is the "Dueling Banjos" scene in "Deliverance," an education is in order.

No one can offer better schooling than Bťla Fleck, the most highly regarded banjo player around.

If you go:

Who: Bťla Fleck and the Flecktones

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.

Tickets: $25 to $50 at www.ticketomaha.com, the Ticket Omaha box office or by phone at 402-345-0606

Information: www.omahaperformingarts.org or 402-345-0202

You could start by heading to see Bťla Fleck and the Flecktones on Sunday at the Holland Performing Arts Center or by picking up the band's latest album, "Rocket Science." Or perhaps one of Fleck's other records, which have won him a total of 13 Grammy Awards (and more nominations in more categories than anyone ever).

Before the band comes to Omaha, we spoke to Fleck about it all, including when he first picked up the banjo.

Q. Most people traditionally go for guitar or piano, so I've always wondered how you picked the banjo.

A. I fell for the banjo after hearing Earl Scruggs' playing on "The Beverly Hillbillies." I don't know why it hit me so hard, but it sure did.

My grandfather got me one when I was fifteen. I was playing some guitar then, but banjo swept that away quickly.

Q. If you hadn't picked up the instrument, what do you think you'd be doing instead?

A. I'd be watching other people playing it!

Honestly, I have no idea ...

Q. I read that you got the band together originally for a one-off show. How did that happen? And are you surprised to have been doing this band for almost 25 years now?

A. I had the opportunity to do my own one-hour PBS TV show. In it I performed a piece for banjo and string quartet that I co-wrote with Edgar Meyer, and I did some banjo stuff with a computer, and I had plans to put a little jazz combo together for a few songs to end with. That combo ended up being the Flecktones, and it didn't end anything!

I am thrilled to have such a long and fruitful musical relationship with (bass guitarist) Victor (Wooten) and (percussionist) Futureman (Ray Wooten), and it is truly wonderful to have (keyboardist and harmonica guy) Howard Levy back on stage with us, once again.

Q. "Rocket Science" has a number of influences and musical genres. Do you have eclectic tastes or inspirations?

A. Yes, we all love a lot of different musics, and we are intrigued by them and we desire to understand them and incorporate new ideas from them as much as possible.

Q. You've been playing for a long time, so where do you continue to find inspiration? Do you still hear music that makes you want to learn how to play it or styles that you'd like to master?

A. Yes, I do. The world is so filled with great music. And the past is a treasure trove. It would be very egotistical to assume that music from the time period we are living in is better than what has happened over the last centuries. Now is only one of our options. So listening to the great musicians from the past and present is essential.

Q. Within the band, there are several very strong talents. Is it hard to guide everyone's vision into one cohesive effort for a song or an album?

A. Actually we are so used to each other that we rarely have disagreements about the music. Most decisions are unanimous, and sometimes we just need to have a leader (me) so that we do make decisions when there is diversity of thought.

Q. The album was the first in a long time with the band's original lineup. How did it feel to have everyone back together?

A. Victor and Futureman and I have been together the whole time, 24 years now. Of course we've taken breaks, sometimes a year or two long — but we've always come back together and grown together and separately. Howard Levy is the returning hero. After 17 years away from the band, he is the reason the band sounds so different now. He was with us for the first four years or so, and his incredible harmonica and piano playing was a big part of our sound. Now it's back, and we get to pick up where we left off in 1992.

Q. You won another Grammy earlier this year. Is it as exciting as the first time?

A. I don't think it can be as exciting when it's your 15th Grammy as it was when it's your first, but it's still quite an amazing thing. It means that the music community thinks that you are doing good work. It's highly appreciated.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1557, kevin.coffey@owh.com

twitter.com/owhmusicguy

Contact the writer: Kevin Coffey

kevin.coffey@owh.com    |   402-444-1557    |  

Kevin covers music, whether it's pop, indie or punk, through artist interviews, reviews and trend stories. He also occasionally covers other entertainment, including video games and comic books.

Read more stories by Kevin


Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom


Copyright ©2014 Omaha World-Herald®. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, displayed or redistributed for any purpose without permission from the Omaha World-Herald.

Latest Stories

Here's who'd play Pelini, Osborne and 19 other Nebraska celebrities in a movie
Here's who'd play Pelini, Osborne and 19 other Nebraska celebrities in a movie

When Hollywood comes calling to tell the story of one of our own, we need to be ready with some casting suggestions because the movie executives will certainly want to hear what we think.


'That thing is atrocious': Rusty steel panel in downtown Papillion plaza spurs complaints
'That thing is atrocious': Rusty steel panel in downtown Papillion plaza spurs complaints

The panel is made of weathering steel that's commonly used in building designs. It's supposed to be turning into a vibrant orange panel emblazoned with a monarch butterfly, but the transformation process is taking longer than expected.


Paul McCartney's best moments (and also his weirdest)
Paul McCartney's best moments (and also his weirdest)

Paul McCartney, who will perform in Lincoln this summer, is responsible for some of the most beautiful pop music ever recorded. But he’s had some head-scratching moments, too.


Watch Westside High seniors Jack and Jack answer fan calls
Watch Westside High seniors Jack and Jack answer fan calls

Vine superstars and Omaha residents Jack and Jack were in studio with Mike'l Severe. Fans called in with questions for the guys from across the country.


‘Wonder Bread Years’: Tickets on sale now for salute to baby boomer generation

Tickets go on sale today at the Omaha Community Playhouse for “The Wonder Bread Years,” Pat Hazell’s comedy salute to the baby boomer generation.


What to watch: John Wayne in 'Stagecoach' on TCM
What to watch: John Wayne in 'Stagecoach' on TCM

John Wayne stars as the Ringo Kid in this classic Western about a group of people traveling through the unsettled West who are threatened by Geronimo.


An early look at the new Beercade (photos)
An early look at the new Beercade (photos)

A new Beercade's only a few months away, and the owners let us look at the new space next door.


Michael W. Smith will perform at the Nebraska State Fair
Michael W. Smith will perform at the Nebraska State Fair

Michael W. Smith will headline the Nebraska State Fair’s Christian concert on Thursday, Aug. 28.
Smith will perform at 7:30 p.m. at the Heartland Events Center.
The multiple Grammy Award winner has sold more than 15 million albums, has had 28 No. 1 hits and 40 Dove Awards, making him one of the nation’s favorite mainstream Christian artists.


Listen: Larry the Cable Guy tells us about his recent injury on a movie set
Listen: Larry the Cable Guy tells us about his recent injury on a movie set

In this clip from Monday's "The Bottom Line," Larry the Cable Guy talks about his benefit show for the Team Jack Foundation, his recent injury and what kind of Husker fan he is.


Paul McCartney will play Lincoln's Pinnacle Bank Arena this summer
Paul McCartney will play Lincoln's Pinnacle Bank Arena this summer

It will be his first time performing in Lincoln, but he did play Omaha in 2005.


 
Search
Movies Opening this week

Movie showtimes and theater listings






Read this!








VIDEOS

Tonight in Prime Time
© 2014 Omaha World-Herald. All rights reserved