Bela Fleck is considered one of the world's premier banjo players. His music has been critically acclaimed whether it is a solo album, duo, or a collaboration with many artists. Bela started playing music when he was very young, and people have been buying tickets in the thousands to see him perform ever since.
Bela Fleck picked up the banjo at the age of fifteen. Even though he had been playing folk guitar already, his teacher was still shocked at how fast he learned to play the banjo. Shortly afterwards, Bela Fleck began attending the New York City High School of Music and Art. He played French horn in the band and sang in the choir. In the evenings he played in the band Wicker's Creek.
Bela graduated from high school and enrolled in the Julliard Extension School at the age of nineteen. However, Bela decided not to attend college and went to Boston to play in the band Tasty Licks. The band broke up, and in 1980 he was hired by Sam Bush to play in his band Newgrass Revival. The band produced five albums and toured for nine years blending bluegrass, country, and rock into their own original music.
While Bela was playing for the Newgrass Revival, he was also part of another band called Strength in Numbers. It was made up of Jerry Douglas, Mark O'Connor, Edgar Meyer, Sam Bush, and Bela Fleck. These men had played and recorded together numerous times, and they decided to do a little touring. Strength in Numbers played at several jazz and bluegrass festivals and recorded The Telluride Sessions which has become an acoustic classic.
In 1989 Bela Fleck decided to start his own band. With the help of Victor Wooton, Roy Wooton, and Howard Levy, The Flecktones was created. The band debuted with a self-titled album in 1990. This unique blend of jazz and bluegrass was critically acclaimed and nominated for a Grammy Award. Bela Fleck and the Flecktones released five more albums in the 90s and recorded with artists like Amy Grant, John Medeski, and Dave Matthews. They even toured with the Dave Matthews Band selling out tickets in 1996 and 1997. The Flecktones opened for Bonnie Raitt and the Grateful Dead and even made an appearance on The Tonight Show. Bela Fleck and the Flecktones have won multiple Grammy Awards including Best Contemporary Jazz Performance, Instrumental in 2000.
Although The Flecktones are still playing and touring, Bela has done a few more things on his own. His newest album, Perpetual Motion, is an album of classical music and a collaboration with Edgar Meyer. Meyer is a bassist and long-time friend of Bela. The two hit upon the banjo/bass duo idea during a concert tour, although the style is a little different from Bela's usual work. However, the album won two Grammys including Best Classical Crossover Album and Best Instrumental Arrangement.
Bela Fleck continues to play at jazz and bluegrass festivals and sell tickets across the United States and Canada, and in concert he is usually accompanied by The Flecktones. Bela has become one of the greats, a legend in jazz music today. He is regarded as the best banjo player in the world. Bela Fleck reinvented the image and sound associated with the banjo in many great performances.
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