Béla Fleck and the Flecktones touched down at OKC’s Tower Theatre this week for a near sellout performance. It was performance that saw the band come full circle, and held the audience mesmerized with their genre bending collaborations. The show was hosted by local NPR affiliate KOSU, and was essentially an “evening with”, no opening act, and consisted of two sets of music. It was just about perfect.
The Flecktones are led by groundbreaking banjoist and composer Béla Fleck. Joining Fleck are longtime collaborators and brothers, Victor Wooten on bass, and Roy “Futureman” Wooten on percussion. Rejoining the Flecktones is pianist/harmonica player Howard Levy. The quartet are touring in support of their newest release, “Rocket Science” on eOne Records. While they’re touring in support of the new album, it also gave the re-convened band an opportunity to revisit some of the magical collaborations of their early years. In fact, they mostly focused on those early works, with “Life In 11” and “Sweet Pomegranates” being the only new tracks in the setlist.
The Flecktones are as eclectic as they come, easily bluring the musical lines between jazz, bluegrass and classical. Still not content, they toss in elements of Eastern European folk, African music and electric blues to create a sound that is simply indescribable as anything other than Flecktones music.
The band treated us with a special night of structured, yet defiantly improvisational music that the packed audience relished. The band opened with “Frontiers” before moving seamlessly through “Blu-Bop”, :Big Country” and the fascinating exploration of the 11 time signatures in the aptly titled “Life In 11”. The highlight of the first set for me was a beautifully sweet “Sunset Road”, followed by the set closing “Jekyll and Hyde (and Ted and Alice)”.
After a short break, the band returned with a improv and packed set that also allowed for each member to showcase their individual talents. Standouts for me included “Half Moon Bay,” “Mars Needs Women (Parts 1 & 2) “Flipper” and the stunning “Juno”. Part of the fun in a Flecktones show is trying to pick up on some of the teases of other songs that get included. A snippet of this or that; perhaps a little “Norwegian Wood” dropped in; that all come with a wink and a smile among the band members. Whether it’s Victor Wooten’s simply breathtaking bass playing, or Futureman’s ability to play a standard kit all while handling his trademark Drumitar, the Wooten Brothers are simply out of this world as far as talent goes. Levy’s ability to blend piano and harmonica all while pushing the band’s musical boundaries is sublime. Lastly, Fleck’s talents are the key ingredient here and the one that drives everything home. Innovative and unique, Fleck continues to be an inspiration on the banjo, song composition and the blending of genres.
Béla Fleck and the Flecktones continue tour dates the remainder of the year. If they touchdown near you, I can’t recommend enough that you check them out. Find out more information including those upcoming tour dates here: http://www.flecktones.com/