Alfred Turner had a chance to talk with musician and composer Béla Fleck a few days before his visit to Columbia, SC, to perform his new banjo concerto, the Juno Concerto. Beck was scheduled to perform the work on November 13, at the Koger Center, with the South Carolina Philharmonic, under music director Morihiko Nakahara. Just in case you aren't familiar with Béla Fleck, there are some who say he's the world’s premier banjo player.
The 15-time Grammy Award winner has been nominated in more categories than any other artist in Grammy history, and remains a powerfully creative force globally in bluegrass, jazz, classical pop, rock and world beat. Most recently, Béla and Abigail Washburn took home the 2016 Grammy for Best Folk Album.
In 2009, Béla produced the award-winning documentary and recordings, Throw Down Your Heart, where he journeyed across Africa to research the origins of the banjo. In 2011, Fleck premiered The Impostor with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, an unprecedented banjo concerto, followed by the companion documentary, How to Write a Banjo Concerto. In 2016, Béla unveiled his second concerto Juno with the Canton Symphony Orchestra.
These days, Fleck bounces between various intriguing touring situations: he performs his concerto worldwide with symphonies, collaborates in a duo with Chick Corea and in a trio with Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer. He performs in concert with the Brooklyn Rider string quartet, in banjo duet with Abigail Washburn, banjo and mandolin duet with Chris Thile, and back to bluegrass with his old friends Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Bryan Sutton and others. He collaborates with African artists such as Oumou Sangare and Toumani Diabate, in a jazz setting with The Marcus Roberts Trio, and - with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, who continue to perform together 25 years after the band’s inception.