Bela Fleck will bring the results of his recent African adventures to Yoshi's in Oakland this weekend, in performance with the great Malian kora player Toumani Diabate. Fleck's new release Throw Down Your Heart, Tales From the Acoustic Planet, Vol 3: africa sessions, also features other well known African musicians; D'Gary (Madagascar), Vusi Mahlasela (South Africa) and Anania Ngoliga (Tanzania). Fleck went to Uganda, Tanzania, Mali and The Gambia in 2005 to find and collaborate with great acoustic musicans and research the roots of the banjo. The album will be released on Rounder later this year. The award-winning documentary, also titled "Throw Down Your Heart" was directed by Sascha Paladino and will also be released later. Mali's Toumani Diabate is considered by many to be the greatest kora player in the world, and he is certainly the most well known. His many solo albums and collaborations have placed him on top tier of instrumental artists worldwide. His amazing new recording 'The Mande Variations' has been recognized with a Grammy nomination this year.
Toumani Diabaté (born August 10, 1965), is a Malian kora player who has gained international acclaim for his music. He is considered by many to be the world's finest kora player. He is a versatile performer, being equally at home with the traditional music of Mali as well as with cross-cultural collaborations with flamenco, blues, jazz, and other international styles. He comes from a long family tradition of kora players including his father, Sidiki Diabaté, who recorded the first ever kora album in 1970. His cousin Maya Jobarteh is a premiere female Diaspora kora player.
In addition to performing Malian traditional music, Diabaté has also performed and recorded in cross-cultural settings. He has collaborated with flamenco group Ketama, forming a combined group known as Songhai and releasing two recordings: Songhai I and Songhai II. He also released a memorable album with Kulanjan, bridging the gap between African and African American music in collaboration with the American blues musician Taj Mahal. His MALIcool is another, more unusual but nevertheless successful collaboration with the American jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd.
In 1999 Diabaté released the album New Ancient Strings, a collaboration with Ballake Sissoko and in September 2005, he released In the Heart of the Moon, for which he collaborated with Ali Farka Touré. On 25 July 2006 he released his latest album Boulevard de l'Independence, recorded with his Symmetric Orchestra. In the Heart of the Moon and Boulevard de l'Independance were recorded at the Hotel Mande, by Nick Gold of World Circuit Records. He appeared in 2006 at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, and at the Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary.
Just in case you aren't familiar with Béla Fleck, there are some who say he's the premiere banjo player in the world. Others claim that Béla has virtually reinvented the image and the sound of the banjo through a remarkable performing and recording career that has taken him all over the musical map and on a range of solo projects and collaborations. If you are familiar with Béla, you know that he just loves to play the banjo, and put it into unique settings.
Born and raised in New York City, Béla began his musical career playing the guitar. In the early 1960's, while watching the Beverly Hillbillies, the bluegrass sounds of Flatt & Scruggs flowed out of the TV set and into his young brain. Earl Scruggs's banjo style hooked Béla's interest immediately. "It was like sparks going off in my head" he later said.
It wasn't until his grandfather bought him a banjo in September of '73, that it became his full time passion. That week, Béla entered New York City's, High School of Music and Art. He began studies on the French horn but soon switched to the chorus. Since the banjo wasn't an offered elective at Music & Art, Béla sought lessons through outside sources. Erik Darling, Marc Horowitz, and Tony Trischka stepped up and filled the job. Béla joined his first band, "Wicker's Creek" during this period. Living in NYC, Béla was exposed to a wide variety of musical experiences. One of the most impressive was a concert by "Return to Forever" featuring Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke. This concert encouraged further experimenting with bebop and jazz on the banjo, signs of things to come.
Several months after high school, Béla moved to Boston to play with Jack Tottle's Tasty Licks. While in Boston, Béla continued his jazz explorations, made two albums with Tasty Licks, and his first solo banjo album Crossing the Tracks, on Rounder Records. This is where he first played with future musical partners Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas.
After the break up of Tasty Licks, Béla spent a summer on the streets of Boston playing with bass player, Mark Schatz. Mark and Béla moved to Lexington, KY to form Spectrum, which included Jimmy Gaudreau, Glen Lawson, and Jimmy Mattingly. Spectrum toured until 1981. While in Spectrum, he and Mark traveled to California and Nashville to record his second album Natural Bridge with David Grisman, Mark O'Connor, Ricky Skaggs, Darol Anger, Mike Marshall, and other great players.
In 1981, Béla was invited to join the progressive bluegrass band New Grass Revival, lead by Sam Bush on mandolin, fiddle and vocals. With the addition of California based Pat Flynn on guitar and NGR veteran John Cowan on bass and vocals, New Grass Revival took bluegrass music to new limits, exciting audiences and critics alike. Through the course of five albums, they charted new territory with their blend of bluegrass, rock and country music. The relentless national and international touring by NGR exposed Béla's banjo playing to the bluegrass/acoustic music world.
During the 9 years Béla spent with NGR he continued to record a series of solo albums for Rounder, including the ground breaking 1988 album "Drive". He also collaborated with Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer and Mark O'Connor in an acoustic super group called Strength in Numbers. The MCA release, "The Telluride Sessions", was also considered an evolutionary statement by the acoustic music community.
Towards the end of the New Grass years, Béla and Howard Levy crossed paths at the Winipeg Folk Festival. Next came a phone call from a friend of Béla's, wanting to introduce to him, a new bass player who was in town looking for a gig. Victor Lemonte Wooten played some licks on the phone for Béla and the second connection was made. In 1988 Dick Van Kleek, Artistic Director for the PBS Lonesome Pine Series based in Louisville, Kentucky, offered Béla a solo show.
Béla put several musical sounds together with his banjo, a string quartet, his Macintosh computer and also a more jazz based combo. Howard and Victor signed on for the concert, but the group still lacked a drummer. The search was on for an unusual drummer/percussionist. Victor offered up his brother Roy Wooten, later to become known as FutureMan. Roy was developing the Drumitar (Drum-Guitar), it was then in its' infancy. A midi trigger device, the drumitar allowed FutureMan to play the drums with his fingers triggering various sampled sounds. The first rehearsal held at Béla's Nashville home was hampered by a strong thunderstorm that knocked the electricity out for hours. The four continued on with an acoustic rehearsal and the last slot on the TV show became the first performance of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.
Next came the self-titled CD, which Béla financed himself. The recording attracted the attention of the folks at Warner Brothers Nashville. It was released in 1990, dubbed a"blu-bop" mix of jazz and bluegrass, and soon became a commercially successful disc. The album was Grammy nominated, and their second recording "Flight of the Cosmic Hippo" followed suit. Howard Levy toured and recorded with the Flecktones till the end of 1992. After several years as a trio and touring with special guests, saxophonist Jeff Coffin joined the Tones. Famed for a non-stop touring schedule, the Flecktones have reached more than 500,000 audience members yearly from 2001 on.
Still releasing albums and touring, the Tones have garnered a strong and faithful following among jazz and new acoustic fans. They have shared the stage with Dave Mathews Band, Sting, Bonnie Raitt and the Grateful Dead, among many others, made several appearances on The Tonight Show back in the Johnny Carson days, as well as Arsenio Hall, and Conan O'Brian. Béla also appeared on Saturday Night Live and David Letterman's show as well.
Although the first Flecktones albums were created live-in-the-studio, the group went on to experiment with overdubs and guest artists on later albums, with contributions from artists as diverse as Chick Corea, Bruce Hornsby, Branford Marsalis, John Medeski, Amy Grant and Dave Matthews. The Flecktones went on tour with Dave Matthews Band in 1996 and 1997, and Fleck is featured on several tracks on DMB's 1998 album "Before these Crowded Streets." In 2003, Béla Fleck & the Flecktones released the landmark three-disc set "Little Worlds" simultaneously with a highlights disc entitled Ten From Little Worlds.
Any world-class musician born with the names Béla (for Bartok), Anton (for Dvorak) and Léos (for Janacek) would seem destined to play classical music. Already a powerfully creative force in bluegrass, jazz, pop, rock and world beat, Béla at last made the classical connection with "Perpetual Motion", his critically acclaimed 2001 Sony Classical recording that went on to win a pair of Grammys, including Best Classical Crossover Album, in the 44th annual Grammy Awards.
Collaborating with Fleck on "Perpetual Motion" was his long time friend and colleague Edgar Meyer, a bassist whose virtuosity defies labels and also an acclaimed composer. In the wake of that album's release, Fleck & Meyer came up with the idea of a banjo/bass duo, which they developed and refined during a concert tour of the US. Live recordings from that tour are the basis for their latest Sony Classical recording "Music For Two" which also includes a bonus DVD featuring a documentary film by Sascha Paladino (Fleck's brother) that captures the duo's collaboration and crafting of repertoire while on tour. Béla and Edgar also co-wrote and performed a double concerto for banjo, bass and the Nashville Symphony, which debuted in November 2003.
The recipients of Multiple Grammy Awards going back to 1998, Béla Fleck & the Flecktones picked up the Best Contemporary Jazz Performance, Instrumental Grammy in 2000 for "Outbound", a typically wide-ranging project, with guest artists that include guitarist Adrian Belew and singers Jon Anderson and Shawn Colvin, built around Fleck's concept of "the banjo being weird."
Flecks' total Grammy count is 8 Grammys won, and 20 nominations. He has been nominated in more different categories than anyone in Grammy history.
Bela Fleck & Toumani Diabate
Mar 19-Mar 22, 2009
Friday 8pm SOLD OUT & 10pm Shows $35
Saturday 8pm SOLD OUT & 10pm Shows $35
Sunday 2pm SOLD OUT & 7pm show $35
For over 35 years Oregon has been personifying their own way of making music, which is a natural meeting point between diverse sounds and equally diverse cultures. The music by this American quartet is always one without boundaries, an adventurous fusion between jazz, chamber atmospheres and folkloristic scents coming from various latitudes and longitudes. But Oregon’s music is also one where composition and improvisation find the right balance, in the depth of a profound melodic breath that in the course of time has remained one of the principle characteristics that distinguishes the group. This weekend, Oregon will debut their newest album, "1000 Kilometers" at Yoshi's on Fillmore.
“1000 Kilometers” is the second album by Oregon for CAM Jazz, after “Prime”, released by the Italian label in 2005 and greeted by the international press as the awaited album comeback by the glorious group. All the tracks on the new CD are newly written and, for the most part, by guitarist Ralph Towner who, for the occasion, also plays the synth guitar, the piano and the keyboards.
But there’s space for the other two long-time members of Oregon, wind-instrument player Paul McCandless and bass player Glen Moore, as well as drummer/percussionist Mark Walker, let alone for two collective improvisations. Walker, having joined the group as a permanent member in 1996, writes the track that opens the CD, Deep Six, which genius melodic design rests on insistent rhythmic themes. The track From A Dream follows, a tasteful entr’acte of classical style, and Catching Up, another episode that encompasses the truest spirit of Ralph Towner and his partners.
The long, evocative title track is dedicated, as is the entire album, to Thomas Stöwsand, who for more than thirty years managed Oregon, and who was a great friend to them and to many other musicians as well. But the most significant moments on “1000 Kilometers” certainly don’t end here, a testimony of the rediscovered creative vein that has brought the group to express themselves on highly qualitative levels, though already shown on the previous album “Prime”.
To reconstruct the historical roads that Oregon has travelled, one would have to go as far back as the Sixties, the period in which Ralph Towner and Glen Moore attended the University of Oregon and began their collaboration. After having both spent some time in Europe, further intensifying their musical studies, the two unite with singer-songwriter Tim Hardin, and with him they perform at the Woodstock Festival. The later meetings with multi-talented Collin Walcott, first, and with Paul McCandless, shortly after, would later bring them to form the group Oregon, however not before mutually belonging to the Paul Winter Consort. The official debut of the new quartet took place in 1971, under the name of Thyme-Music of Another Present Era, soon renamed upon McCandless’ suggestion.
Vanguard and Elektra were the first labels to document the quartet’s innovative sound intuitions, which were then recorded, in the Eighties, by ECM. In 1984, the sudden loss of Collin Walcott in a car accident deeply scarred the existence of Oregon, who then continued their artistic journey with the Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu. After Gurtu left the band, Towner, Moore and McCandless went on to record two trio albums. The arrival of Mark Walker brought the quartet back together and Oregon picked up strength, recording a few albums for Intuition before entering the always more numerous and fortified team of CAM Jazz.
Oregon, featuring Ralph Towner, Paul McCandless, Glen Moore, & Mark Walker
Yoshi's San Francisco on Fillmore
Apr 04-Apr 5, 2009
Saturday 8pm & 10pm $22
Sunday 2pm Matinee $5 Kids, $18 Adults with Kids, $22 General
Sunday 7pm show $22