“I don’t wanna celebrate the old days. We’re here now. Let’s go do something we’ve never done before.“
What comes to mind when you hear the word “reunion?” Perhaps the term has no vested interest for you at that moment; maybe you’re too young to have attended even a high school reunion thus far. If so, let me share a not-so-little secret about them. What should be a celebration and a rejuvenation is often just not so. Instead, they’re usually a tad preoccupied with past achievements. It can be a somewhat sad affair, a commemoration that is nevertheless tinted with the regret of nostalgia.
For music groups, their own reunions often fall into the same traps. It’s rarely about starting a new chapter, and instead seems more preoccupied with cashing in on past success. Alas, it’s also a general rule of thumb that the get-togethers are sub-par. Off the top of my head, the only two recent examples of reunion where hype matched the performance was The Police tour and the one-night-only Led Zeppelin reunion. Exemplary examples of this sort are exceedingly rare, because… well, let’s be honest. The bands usually broke up for a good reason to begin with. All the money in the world won’t right the ubiquitous “creative differences.” I’m looking at you, The Monkees
Why not let the sleeping dog lie, then? Because once in a blue moon the stars align and offer renewal rather than a recycling of old times. Case in point, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones
. These guys aren’t driven by greed, but by promise. Although preforming for nearly a quarter of a century, the band deviated from its original members long ago, last playing together as that unit in 1991.
Now before I go any further, I know what some of you are thinking: Just who the heck is Béla Fleck?
A world renown banjo player, Fleck has participated in a wide range of solo and collaborative projects throughout his career. He has blended some musical genre lines and busted through many others. As a result, Béla has been nominated in more different Grammy categories than any other musician. He has won Grammys for his work with Asleep at the Wheel, Alison Brown and Edgar Meyer. The things Fleck can do with a banjo can defy belief. Fearless in his approach, Béla has even adapted classical selections for use with a banjo. One can witness the beautiful result as he plays Prelude from Bach Violin Partitia #3
on his own set of strings right here
In 1988, he formed Béla Fleck and the Flecktones with Victor Wooten, Roy “Future Man” Wooten, Howard Levy and, of course, Fleck himself. Their music isn’t easy to classify, but it is a fusion of bluegrass and jazz. In fact, they should create a whole new category just for them. The wide variety of influences in their body of work is the very reason why they have been Grammy nominated in such a spectrum of categories: instrumental, jazz, bluegrass, pop, spoken word, contemporary Christian, gospel, classical, and country (to name a few). In many ways they are musical chameleons, adapting to whatever inspires them.
Keyboardist and harmonic player Levy stayed with them during their first three albums, but departed the group after the 1992 album UFO Tofu. This year, Levy returned to the lineup and the original members have released a new album, Rocket Science. This is the first time in nearly 20 years that The Original Flecktones have performed together. Instead of using this as a cash grab opportunity, their purpose is simply creative in nature. They aim to push each other into new grounds, and that’s quite a bold statement for such an innovative group that has blazed trails and blended genres for nearly a quarter century.
But don’t take my word for it. Here, meet the band for yourselves…
Is this a glimpse of the future of the band? Or is it merely a one-time reunion tour? The Flecktones may not even know, but they’re taking advantage of the rejuvenation and celebrating the progress they are able to make together. It’s rare, it’s inspiring, and it’s something to behold with your eyes and ears.
Getting the band back together isn’t rocket science, but it can be a challenge to do it for the right reasons. Béla Fleck and the Flecktones are their own guiding light, and this reunion is no mere time machine to the past. Instead, the guys have reunited to build their own rocket ship to move forward, reach new heights, and inspire new audiences in ways they’ve never imagined. We as listeners are merely along for the ride, but what a wonderful musical adventure it’s going to be.
Béla Fleck and the Flecktones will be appearing live at The Paramount Theatre on Thursday, October 13 at 8:00 p.m.