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Bela Fleck Has The Flecktones Back In Gear

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2009

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It’s Flecktones time again.

After spending the last couple of years mostly apart, save for “limited” touring — mostly tied to last year’s Grammy Award-winning “Jingle All the Way” holiday album — banjoist and bandleader Béla Fleck is plotting out a return to active duty, including recording the group’s first studio album since 2006’s “The Hidden Land” (another Grammy winner) next fall and a full schedule of touring in 2011.

“Everybody’s been doing their own projects,” says Fleck, 51, who has worked with jazz keyboardist Chick Corea, with Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain on the triple concerto project “Melody of Rhythm” -- which was recorded with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra -- and chronicled a musical journey to Africa in the documentary “Throw Down Your Heart.”

“My goal has always been to make a long-term group creative and viable, not something old hat and boring. You have to find a way to spice it up, and every single time we leave the group and do something else, it does that, spices it up, so when we come back to the home base, we feel free to play different rhythms and throw out different ideas and he different energies we’ve soaked up outside of (the band).”

The Flecktones will take on a new wrinkle in the future, however. Though saxophonist Jeff Coffin is touring with the group this winter, his first priority now is to the Dave Matthews Band, which he joined in 2008 to replace the late Leroi Moore. Fleck says that presents the Flecktones with “a challenge,” but one they’re heartily embracing.

“We’ve been trying to do different things when he’s not available, just exploring different things so we can figure out ways to perform without him,” Fleck explains. “We’re really proud of Jeff. We think it’s a great move — great for Dave, great for Jeff. He didn’t die. He’s still our buddy.

“Sometimes change is good, and this is a good change. We’ll always be close to Jeff and play with him when we can ... and still make music when we can’t. That’s what musicians of this caliber are about.”

Béla Fleck & the Flecktones perform at 8 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 10) at Sound Board in the MotorCity Casino, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $49.50, $44.50 and $35. Call (313) 237-7711 or visit www.motorcitycasino.com.

Web Site: www.motorcitycasino.com

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