Banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck has certainly broken more boundaries than any other picker in recent memory, from his early days performing bluegrass-inspired folk compositions on Rounder in the late '70s to his quirky jazz freak-outs with the Flecktones throughout the '90s. In late 2001, this peculiar innovator released an album of banjo interpretations of classical works by Bach, Chopin, and Scarlatti. Before classical purists roll their eyes, they must remember that the banjo hasn't always been seen as the instrument of choice of backwoods musicians in the Appalachian mountains, but as recently as the 1940s was used as a primary rhythm instrument in all manner of parlor music.
Premier banjo player Béla Fleck is considered one of the most innovative pickers in the world and has done much to demonstrate the versatility of his instrument, which he uses to play everything from traditional bluegrass to progressive jazz. He was named after composer Béla Bartok and was born in New York City. Around age 15, Fleck became fascinated with the banjo after hearing Flatt & Scruggs' "Ballad of Jed Clampett" and Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell's "Dueling Banjos," and his grandfather soon gave him one. While attending the High School of Music and Art in New York, Fleck worked on adapting bebop music for the banjo.
The Melody of Rhythm, is an unparalleled collaboration between banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck, composer and double-bass master Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain, arguably the world’s greatest tabla player.
Though the Flecktones didn't change their formula with their third album, UFO Tofu, they did manage to craft one of their more consistent and impressive efforts. The band's fusion of jazz, bluegrass, and funk gels quite well on UFO Tofu – not only does Bela Fleck turn in a rich, eclectic performance, but pianist Howard Levy's deft lines and inventive phrasing dominate the album. Occasionally, the material is lightweight, functioning only as vehicle for the group's solos.