Few people have so mastered an instrument as Bela Fleck has the banjo. In fact the man is so synonymous with this instrument that words like master and genius almost fall short in their simplicity. From the time he was first inspired listening to the Earl Scruggs’ recording of The Beverly Hillbillies Theme Song to his time with The New Grass Revival to forming The Flecktones it’s difficult to think of anyone who has been more innovative with their instrument. Fleck has been nominated for a Grammy in more musical categories than anyone and all with the banjo. Having just toured through town with the Flecktones he made a return visit this time for an ‘Inside The Score’ session with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.
Having seen Trey Anastasio perform with the CSO last year I thought it would be a relatively similar experience. I was wrong. Firstly, despite the fact that this concert played host to a living legend the room was only about half sold out. Secondly, the crowd was more along the lines of season ticket holders rather than rabid live music fans. The result being that other than some boisterous coughing from a few souls trying to get over their spring colds, the 2600 person room was utterly quiet. This was a benefit and a curse. It was nice to be able to focus on the music and really listen, the bad was that a single click of my DSLR seemed to echo to the point of absurdity. The result was that I took all of one picture before putting my camera away amongst a few sideway glances and glaring stares.
The night began sans Fleck with an orchestrated version of Pat Methany’s “Minuano” which featured a dual time signature we were told to listen for by conductor Scott O’Neil. Fleck wowed audiences with his take on Bach and Debussy. One of the real highlights of the first set was a banjo led rendition of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” The delicacy and attention to detail that Fleck demonstrates at times made the humble banjo seem otherworldly. The peak of the set came in the form of a piece written by Bela Fleck and dubbed “Crooked Run” which was simply an all out jam between himself and Claude Sim on violin. They finished prior to intermission with what would be the only Flecktones original “The Landing” with the full orchestration. After a short break Bela Fleck returned with a much longer composed piece entitled “The Imposter.” All in all it was a beautiful night at the symphony. Bela Fleck continues to demonstrate why he is at the height of his instrument and why he is not to be missed in any capacity when he is performing. Bela is simply mind blowing and it’s always incredible to me that he continually stuns audiences with an instrument that was long thought of as Appalachian jabberwocky. Fleck has risen the level of the banjo on par with the violin and the French horn as far as I’m concerned. He ended the night with a meet and greet in the lobby, but we opted to head home with visions of banjer in our head.