Happy birthday Béla Fleck!

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Béla Fleck (born July 10, 1958) is an American banjo player, composer, and bandleader. He is widely considered the premier banjo player in the world. He is known for his band's fusion of bluegrass, jazz, funk, bebop, and many other elements. His first notable work was the self-titled album Béla Fleck and the Flecktones (1990). He has been nominated for Grammys in more categories than anyone else in history.

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A native of New York City, Fleck was named after famed Hungarian composer Béla Bartok. Fleck was first inspired by Flatt & Scruggs. He picked up a banjo at the age of 15 and began to experiment with bebop on the instrument. After high school, he moved to Boston, and later to Kentucky as he became more involved in the bluegrass scene.

In 1982, he joined the band New Grass Revival. This was his first major exposure on the bluegrass scene. Meanwhile, he released a series of solo albums through Rounder Records including Natural Bridge (1982), Deviation (1984), Double Time (1984), Inroads (1986), and Drive (1988).

By 1989, he formed the band The Flecktones, composed of Victor Wooten (bass), Future Man (percussion), and Howard Levy (harmonica, piano). They released their self-titled debut album in 1990. A fusion of jazz, bluegrass, and bebop, it reached number 17 on the Billboard contemporary jazz chart. The song, "The Sinister Minister," would later win a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

They continued to release highly eclectic albums throughout the 1990s. In 2001, The Flecktones album Outbound (2000) won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. They have since won three more Grammys, in 2007 again for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, in 2009 for Best Pop Instrumental Album, and in 2012 for Best Instrumental Composition.

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Fleck frequently collaborates with musicians of all kinds. In 2003, Fleck collaborated with acclaimed bassist Edgar Meyer on a double concerto to be performed with the Nashville Symphony. The two then collaborated with tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain on a triple concerto entitled "The Melody of Rhythm."

In 2011, Fleck wrote his first stand alone banjo concerto, commissioned by the Nashville Symphony.

In an interview with PBS, Fleck commented on how the role of the banjo has changed over time, saying, " I think it is very ironic that most people think that the banjo is a southern white instrument. It came from Africa and even for the first years that white people played banjo they would put on blackface. The heyday of the banjo was in the 1800's when suddenly it was the most exciting instrument in the world and everybody wanted to play it-- kind of like the guitar was in America in the1960's."

Fleck has won a total of 15 Grammys and has been nominated for 30. He has been nominated for Grammys in more categories than anyone else in history.

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Thursday, 10 July 2014
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