Complete this sentence: "Béla Fleck is to the banjo as ______ is to the _______." Louis Armstrong to the trumpet? Jimi Hendrix to the guitar? Clara Rockmore to the theremin? Among North American banjo players, only Earl Scruggs is as legendary (to diehard fans of bluegrass) for pioneering new techniques on this instrument. From his early tutelage with Tony Trischka and nine years with the New Grass Revival to inventions within Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and with masters of other genres - as well as his duo with partner Abigail Washburn - Fleck's reinvention of the banjo goes beyond virtuosity. He's a banjo visionary.
On the genesis of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Fleck says:
"That was the original impetus to put the group together, was these particular personalities, these characters that no one else in the world plays like. Victor (Wooten) and Future Man and Howard (Levy) are just maniacs; nobody has even thought of what they've thought of, much less been able to pull it off. With the four of us, there's a certain balance of the creative-wacko-nerd-genius vibe. I'm not saying that about myself, but I can certainly say it about those guys."
Join host John Floridis and Béla Fleck for this genre-hopping, three-fingered, five-stringed edition of "Musician's Spotlight."
"Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn are two American musical treasures. This husband-and-wife banjo duo write original tunes steeped in the roots of folk music. Their playing is sweetly paced with melodies interweaving through their intricate, percussive picking all while Abigail soars above it all with her discerning, yearning voice... The intensity and thoughtfulness in Bela Fleck's and Abigail Washburn's music is why it will shine for a good long while, the way great folk tunes stay relevant over the ages." - Bob Boilen, NPR Music