Béla Fleck & The Flecktones – Tickets – Oregon Zoo – Portland, OR – July 14th, 2018

Béla Fleck & The Flecktones

Oregon Zoo Presents

Béla Fleck & The Flecktones

David Grisman Trio, The Jerry Douglas Band

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Doors: 5:00 pm / Show: 6:30 pm

$39.50 - $99.50

This event is all ages

Béla Fleck & The Flecktones
Béla Fleck & The Flecktones
Groundbreaking banjoist/composer/bandleader Béla Fleck has reconvened the original ‘Béla Fleck & The Flecktones’, the extraordinary initial line-up of his incredible combo. Rocket Science marks the first recording by the first fab four Flecktones in almost two decades, with pianist/harmonica player Howard Levy back in the fold alongside Fleck, bassist Victor Wooten, and percussionist/ Drumitarist Roy “Futureman” Wooten. Far from being a wistful trip back in time, the album sees the Grammy Award-winning quartet creating some of the most forward thinking music of their long, storied career. While all manners of genres come into play – from classical and jazz to bluegrass and African music to electric blues and Eastern European folk dances – the result is an impossible to pigeonhole sound all their own, a meeting of musical minds that remains, as ever, utterly indescribable. Simply put, it is The Flecktones, the music made only when these four individuals come together.

“All the different things I do come together to make a new ‘hybrid’ Béla’,” Fleck says. “Everybody else in the group is doing the same things, collaborating with different people, and pursuing a wide variety of ideas, so when we come together and put all of our separate soups into one big stockpot it turns into a very diverse concoction.” Fleck first united the Flecktones in 1988, ostensibly for a single performance on PBS’ Lonesome Pine Special. From the start, there was a special kinship between the four musicians, a bond forged in a mutual passion for creativity and artistic advancement. Three breakthrough albums and a whole lot of live dates followed before Levy decided to move on in late 1992.

“I wanted to do other things and there was no time to do anything else,” he explains. “We were probably playing 150 shows a year at that time – maybe more – and it was just too much for me. I’ve never, before or since, done any one thing that much!” Béla Fleck & the Flecktones persevered, playing as a trio and with many special guests, before saxophonist Jeff Coffin joined the ensemble. A succession of acclaimed albums and innumerable live performances continued to earn the band a fervent fan following around the world, not to mention five Grammy Awards in a range of categories.

Still, by 2008, the band had grown somewhat restive and embarked on a temporary hiatus. The seeds of change began with what Futureman calls the “paintbrushes of fate” as Coffin was invited to join Dave Matthews Band after the 2008 death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore. Fleck encouraged him to accept, believing the decision would rejuvenate both DMB and the Flecktones themselves. “We were ready for something different to happen,” he says. “We’d been in a kind of holding pattern. We had the same line-up for so many years that it was becoming ‘normal’, we were all drifting into outside things for new musical invigoration, and we were taking more and more time off between albums and tours.”

Each member had been quite busy with a variety of successful projects – including: Bela’s duet collaborations with Chick Corea, a trio with Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer (sometimes with the Detroit Symphony) and his expansive adventures in African music, documented in the acclaimed 2009 film and CD, Throw Down Your Heart. Victor’s solo band tours, camps, recording sessions, clinics and CD releases (including an incredible collaborative project with Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller called SMV, which yielded the album ‘Thunder’), and Future Man’s creation of his amazing Black Mozart project, and continued developement of new instruments.

Still, all agree that Flecktones music was beckoning them home. The band, which had always maintained a warm relationship with the gifted pianist/harmonica player, recruited Levy for a 2009 tour of the US and Europe, an experience he describes as “extremely invigorating and very energizing.” “It felt just like it did back when we first started playing together,” says Wooten. “Just with a lot less hair.” Upon the tour’s conclusion, the four musicians agreed to further explore the band’s possibilities, sensing what Futureman calls, “an opportunity to revisit the original scene of the crime.” “There were a lot of unfinished aspects to this line-up of the band,” Fleck notes, “in that it stopped right when we were peaking creatively.” For Fleck, Levy’s return enables the Flecktones to follow through on the original concept of a band “where each person was reinventing their instruments, where every one of us was a kind of mutant.”

“There’s a special thing that happens when the four of us get together and play,” notes Levy. “We all have the same attitude of trying to do things that we haven’t done before and coincidentally, no one else has either.” One thing was certain, however. The ‘original’ Flecktones were resolute that their reunion would not be rooted in nostalgia. The goal from the get-go was to drive the music forward to places where it might’ve progressed had things gone differently.

“I didn’t want to just get together to play the old music,” Fleck says. “That’s not what the Flecktones are about. Everybody’s full of life and ideas and creativity. I was intrigued by what we could do that we had never done before.” “Everybody’s still advancing on their instruments,” adds Futureman. “Everyone has grown over these 18 years, so it was an opportunity to realize some of what we were trying to do in the beginning.”

In early 2010, Fleck and Levy first began working on new material, teaming up for collaborative writing sessions at Levy’s home in Evanston, Illinois. Fleck was determined to establish a more inclusive environment as far as composition, to give Levy a greater stake in the writing process. “We hashed out a whole bunch of ideas together,” Levy says. “He would play things that he was working on, and I would go back into my memory banks and say, ‘I have this incomplete fragment that might work well with the band,’ or we would just improvise things together. It was inspiring, I think, for both of us.”

Their compositional collaboration resulted in a remarkable suite comprised of “Joyful Spring” and “Life In Eleven.” The former was originally conceived of by Levy while in his early 20s, while the idea for “Life In Eleven” had its genesis in the Flecktones’ first incarnation. The band had long wanted to explore one of Levy’s passions, the Bulgarian dance rhythm called Gankino or Krivo. “Almost 12,” a piece Victor and Bela wrote after Howard left the band had earned the Flecktones a “Best Instrumental Composition” Grammy in 1998. Still, the goal of writing a Flecktone piece – with Howard – using the unusual 11/16 or 11/8 time signature was, to Fleck’s mind, “unfinished business.”

“When we got together, the 11 idea came back up and Howard came out with something very Bulgarian,” he says. “I said, ‘It’s really great but it’s really fast and jumpy and complex. What if, halfway through, we dropped into a gospel 11/4 feel that was so natural, that you didn’t even notice it was in 11?’ It was an idea I’d had in my mind for some time, a way of playing something in 11 that didn’t confuse new 11 listeners, due to it’s complexity”

Songwriting was, of course, not limited to Fleck and Levy. Futureman’s solo composition “The Secret Drawer” serves as preamble to Levy’s evocative “Sweet Pomegranates,” and Wooten brought “Like Water”, which Bela helped to complete, which stands as a majestic representation of his flowing, pianistic approach to the bass. For his part, Fleck composed a number of new pieces while also delving into his back pages for “Earthling Parade” and “Storm Warning,” a track that had been a highlight of his live sets when touring with Stanley Clarke and Jean-Luc Ponty. Though he had not previously considered either composition for the Flecktones, the new line-up inspired him to give them a second look.

“Those pieces now seemed more intrigueing – with the original line-up,” Fleck says. “Not that they hadn’t been cool in other settings, but with Howard in the picture we could go quite deep into the complicated zone while still keeping them earthy and warm.” In September, the Flecktones met at Fleck’s home studio in Nashville for the first of two rounds of sessions. Where the band had customarily road-tested new material, working out the kinks in live performance, this time they did not have that luxury.

“We were writing some of the more complex pieces as we were laying them down,” Levy says. “But all of us have done so much recording outside of the group, where we’re used to seeing compositions take shape in the studio, that we were all comfortable with the process.” “We had to be very aware,” Fleck says, “because we were making final decisions almost from the start. But I think it yielded an improvised quality, an intensity, to the record. It was like, ‘Let’s make some good decisions and then commit to them.'”

In many ways, the album’s sound centers on the return of Levy’s piano and chromatically played diatonic harmonica, taking full advantage of the new melodic designs each brought to the Flecktones’ sonic palette. Known as “The Man With Two Brains” for his uncanny ability to play both instruments simultaneously, Levy has built a remarkably diverse resume over the past twenty years, including solo and session work, membership in Trio Globo and Chévere de Chicago, collaborations with classical violinist Fox Fehling, and founding Balkan Samba Records and the online Howard Levy Harmonica School. The equally restless Fleck hails Levy as “an incendiary player” who by his very nature forces the band out of their comfort zone.

“When we play together, Victor, Futureman, and I all have to step up our game,” Fleck says, “because Howard is going to throw something unexpected at us, which in certain ways, puts us in an uncomfortable zone, but due to that, we have to push through – into our higher selves.” While prior Flecktones collections have often featured inventive and innovative instrumentation, this time out the band opted to stick to the basics. Fleck plays an assortment of banjos, mostly vintage, though an electric Deering Crossfire can be heard on “Prickly Pear” and a prototype 10-string banjo is featured on “Joyful Spring.” For his part, Wooten largely bypassed his famed assortment of bass effects, noting that the player is what truly matters.

“In my mind, the instrument is there to allow the musician to feel something and to express themselves,” Wooten says. “The music doesn’t come from the instrument, it comes from the musician. Whatever instrument allows you to express yourself the way you want to at that moment is the one you should play.”

That said, Futureman took the occasion to unveil a new prototype Drumitar, his MIDI-based device that allows him to trigger samples using his fingers. A central element of the Flecktones sound, the first version of the notorious instrument was on its last legs after more than two decades. More significantly, new advances in technology allowed for the creation of a Drumitar more in line with the drummer’s vision, featuring better dynamics and the ability to record his own spectrum of drum samples.

“Twenty years later, the fruit is really ripe,” Futureman says. “There are things that I was trying to do back then but the sounds just weren’t good enough. Now it’s actually swinging the way I always wanted it to swing.” For many Flecktones fans, the return of the original line-up allows a chance to see a band that many had never gotten to witness before. Indeed, a certain segment of the band’s base discovered them during the Jeff Coffin era and may not even be familiar with Levy’s membership.

“There are people who don’t remember the very beginning of the Flecktones,” Futureman says. “It’s like people that started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and never got to meet Captain Kirk. So here we go, the original crew of the Enterprise coming together on a new mission.”

Visionary and vibrant as anything in their already rich canon, Rocket Science feels more like a new beginning than simply the culmination of an early chapter. Where the band goes from here remains undetermined, but all four members agree that the promise of Béla Fleck & the Original Flecktones has yet to be fulfilled. “We’re going to have to have this experience together and see how everybody likes it,” Fleck says. “I know that we haven’t even come close to exhausting the possibilities with this record, but we sure went deeper than we ever had before.”
David Grisman Trio
David Grisman Trio
Stream the new Tommy Emmanuel & David Grisman album Pickin’ HERE For nearly half a century, mandolinist / composer / bandleader / producer David Grisman has been a guiding force in the evolving world of acoustic music. His musical range is wide and deep, embracing many styles, genres and traditions. An acoustic pioneer and innovator, David forged a unique personal artistic path, skillfully combining elements of the great American music/art forms of jazz and bluegrass with many international flavors and sensibilities to create his own distinctive idiom of "Dawg" music (the nickname given him by Jerry Garcia.) In doing so, he ís inspired new generations of acoustic string musicians, while creating his own niche in contemporary music.







Grisman discovered the mandolin as a teenager growing up in New Jersey, where he met and became a disciple of mandolinist/folklorist Ralph Rinzler. Despite warnings from his piano teacher that it wasn't a "real" instrument", David learned to play the mandolin in the style of Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music. He took it to Greenwich Village where he studied English at NYU, while immersed in the proliferating folk music scene of the early 1960s. In 1963 Grisman made his first recordings both as an artist (Even Dozen Jug Band - Elektra) and producer (Red Allen, Frank Wakefield and the Kentuckians ‚ Folkways.) In 1966 Red Allen offered David his first job with an authentic bluegrass band, the Kentuckians. Grisman began composing original tunes and playing with other urban bluegrass contemporaries like Peter Rowan and Jerry Garcia, with whom he would later form Old & in the Way. David's interests spread to jazz in 1967, while playing in a folk-rock group, Earth Opera. A failed attempt at learning to play alto sax turned him into a student of jazz musicianship and theory. His burgeoning career as a session musician gave him experience playing many types of music and opportunities to stretch the boundaries of the mandolin. His discography is filled with notables including Jerry Garcia, Stephane Grappelli, the Grateful Dead, John Hartford, Del McCoury, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Earl Scruggs, James Taylor and Doc Watson. Dawg's instrumental style found a home in 1974 when he formed the Great American Music Band with fiddler Richard Greene. "Nothing against singers," said David, "but it became apparent to me that I could play 90 minutes without one. Besides, Elvis never called." Within a year, David met guitar wizard Tony Rice, who moved to California where they started rehearsing a new group, the David Grisman Quintet (DGQ,) which also included violinist Darol Anger and bassist/mandolinist Todd Phillips. Since then the DGQ has featured such stellar notables as Svend Asmussen, Hal Blaine, Vassar Clements, Stephane Grappelli, Mike Marshall, Andy Statman and Frank Vignola. The current lineup includes bassist Jim Kerwin, flutist Matt Eakle, percussionist George Marsh, guitarist George Cole and fiddler Chad Manning (DGQ+). After recording for major and independent labels, David founded Acoustic Disc in 1990 and entered the most prolific period of his career, producing 67 critically acclaimed CDs (five of which were Grammy-nominated.) In 2010 he launched AcousticOasis.com, the first download website devoted to acoustic music. Recently Grisman has revisited his roots with the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience (DGBX). This very traditional group includes Keith Little on 5-string banjo, guitar and vocals, Jim Nunally on guitar and vocals, Chad Manning on fiddle, Samson Grisman on bass, with David on mandolin and vocals. Dawg also plays blues and old-time music with his old jugband-mate John Sebastian. He lives in Northern California with his wife Tracy, an artist and musician. Between them they have seven grown kids and four grandchildren. David Grisman has always been a revolutionary. He has deeply influenced contemporary acoustic practicioners through his own musical explorations and with the continuing success of Acoustic Disc and Acoustic Oasis, has helped make artist-owned independent labels a viable force in todayís music business.
The Jerry Douglas Band
The Jerry Douglas Band
What If

August 18, 2017

Jerry Douglas was a teenager playing in a band in Lexington, Kentucky, the first time he heard Weather Report and Chick Corea — on the same day. More than 40 years later, he remembers the moment vividly.

“It blew my head off,” he says. “I loved it. And I thought, ‘Well, there’s where I could go with all this stuff runnin’ around in my head.’”

“All this stuff” is the remarkable music Douglas has made on Dobro and lap steel in a career that’s earned him world renown as the top purveyor of his craft. On his latest musical foray, What If, Douglas decisively merges those jazz inclinations with the bluegrass, country, blues, swing, rock, and soul he’s spent his life absorbing and performing, forging a sound that flies beyond the boundaries of anything he — or anyone else — has done before.

Though Douglas has recorded several of these songs previously, he turns them inside out here in bold new arrangements filled with unexpected elements. For example, in 1992 he covered “Hey Joe,” the Billy Roberts folk tune that became one of Jimi Hendrix’s most beloved blues-rockers, as an uptempo bluegrass song. Here, it’s recontextualized again with drums and fiddle — and horns instead of mandolin. And “Freemantle,” which Douglas and banjoist Béla Fleck had co-written and recorded decades ago as a duet, is now so deeply layered, it almost begs to be heard through headphones.

Like fellow bluegrass-rooted peers Fleck and David Grisman, Douglas has always balanced respect for tradition with a desire to escape constricting expectations. But there were places even he was afraid to go — until now.

“I’ve always heard horn lines in my songs, and I usually put something else there instead,” he explains. But after bassist Daniel Kimbro joined the Jerry Douglas Band in 2013, he introduced Douglas to guitarist Mike Seal, trumpet player Vance Thompson, and saxophonist Jamel Mitchell — a nephew of famed Al Green producer Willie Mitchell and son of James, one of the original Memphis Horns players.

“They opened a door that I had hesitated to pass through before,” Douglas admits. It led to a place where he felt free to follow those previously stifled leanings. “I thought, ‘OK, I’m just gonna write like there are really gonna be horns this time, so I’ll just go ahead and stretch it on out,’ instead of thinking, ‘Well, I won’t have real horns ’cause I’ll piss somebody off.’ I’m over that.”

“A lot of what you do as a musician comes from fear; what you think the audience will stand,” he says. “But I think they’re with me at this point. Audiences are more broadminded than they were when I started playing.”

Truthfully, though, audiences have been with him since he started performing in his early teens. Born in Warren, Ohio, Douglas was 8 when his bluegrass-loving dad took him to hear Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Douglas fell in love with the sound he heard coming from Josh Graves’ Dobro. Five years later, he was playing Ohio’s finest dives in his dad’s band, entertaining southern-born steel workers (and sipping vodka drinks the little-old-lady bartenders made him). He spent much of his time listening to bluegrass, though proximity to the rock bastion of Cleveland helped foster his awareness of the Beatles, Stones, Byrds, and other top acts of the day.

As soon as he graduated from high school, Douglas headed to Washington, D.C., to join Charlie Waller, Ricky Skaggs, and Doyle Lawson in the Country Gentlemen. He’s since performed in so many incarnations, at one point, he counted membership in eight bands — simultaneously. His recent history includes his band the Earls of Leicester (pronounced “Lester”; get it?), – his version of the Flatt and Scruggs band – with Shawn Camp, Charlie Cushman, Jeff White, Johnny Warren, and Barry Bales; their self-titled 2014 debut earned Douglas his 14th Grammy. He’d already picked up eight with Alison Krauss & Union Station, with whom he’s closing out his second decade, and shared the Album of the Year win for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the film soundtrack that helped replant traditional roots music in the modern American psyche.

Douglas took home his first golden gramophone in 1983 as a member of J.D. Crowe’s New South, with Skaggs and Tony Rice — though it was their self-titled 1975 album that was said to change the course of bluegrass and become a landmark of the genre.

It was Skaggs who nicknamed Douglas “Flux” — which reportedly has more to do with his fluid, flowing finger work than his shifting musical identities. Though come to think of it, his music does tend to shift stylistically as often as the configurations in which it’s delivered — which have also included the newgrass-influenced Strength in Numbers (with Fleck, Sam Bush, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O’Connor), and Elvis Costello’s all-over-the-map Sugarcanes (with Jim Lauderdale, Stuart Duncan, Dennis Crouch, Mike Compton, and Jeff Taylor).

In 1998, Douglas joined fiddler Aly Bain as co-music director for the BBCScotland-TV show Transatlantic Sessions, in which U.K., Irish, and North American artists gather in Scottish manors or similar locales to make music. This year, they embarked on their first stateside tour, featuring guests including Rosanne Cash, James Taylor, Sarah Jarosz, John Paul White, Aoife O’Donovan, the Milk Carton Kids, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

He also somehow finds time to perform solo, as well as produce and do session work for other artists. Living in Nashville since 1979, he’d actually left the road for 15 years, after a string of ’80s hits with the Whites, to concentrate on studio work. “I was doin’ so much of it,” Douglas recalls, “every time I left town, I lost money.”

Though he’s still racking up recording credits — the tally is now over 2,000, according to his website, and may be Guinness Book-worthy — Krauss, he says, “rescued me.” In the ensuing years, he often pondered, “What if?” Finally, that became What If.

“It’s been a long time comin’,” Douglas says. “I promised my dad I would make a bluegrass record, so I made two Earls of Leicester records. He should be satisfied now. I hit my quota.”

And then some. But this album wasn’t a sure thing until Douglas heard the band perform the Edgar Meyer composition “Unfolding.” He’d played with Fleck, Bush and O’Connor on Meyer’s original 1986 version, then covered it on his 2008 album, Glide.

“It was way ahead of its time when we recorded it for him,” Douglas says. “We didn’t know how to play music like that, most of us. Though I cut it on my own, that’s another one I wanted to revisit. … When this band played that song, it let me know there was really something to this — that it had a future.”

On this elegant track, Dobro gives way to fiddle, then sax, then bass; each virtuosic solo simply seems to … unfold.

That’s what What If did, too. Douglas says he initially planned to record the band’s performing set list, then realized he had unheard material these players could tackle. In some cases, their input radically changed the song.

“I’d come up with the tune, and they would help me take it to some crazy places,” he says. Not coincidentally, What If marks the recorded debut of the Jerry Douglas Band — because, according to Douglas, it’s a real band effort (also including longtime drummer Doug Belote and violinist Christian Sedelmyer, who joined in 2014).

Guitarist Seal had particularly heavy involvement in “Battle Stick,” a song with multiple time signatures, flipped-backward instrumentation, and other Beatles-influenced “tricks” Douglas loves using.

“There’s a part in the middle where we kind of lay the melody on its side, like something Sting would do. It completely changes the whole feel,” he notes.

Speaking of changing the feel, Douglas’ rendering of Tom Waits’ “2:19” is a funky revelation, dripping with soul — and vocals that sound like they’re rolling from the lips of a grizzled Beale Street bluesman killing it at 3 a.m., not a three-time Country Music Association Musician of the Year. (Douglas’ incredibly long list of accolades also includes winning a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship and an Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award.)

He also radically reconfigures the album opener “Cave Bop,” originally recorded in 2002. This time, it contains the horns he always wanted it to have.

“The first time I recorded it, we just played it as fast as we possibly could. This time, we made it a bit more sophisticated, with more of an arrangement,” he says. “A lot of times, when you record songs, you don’t really know ’em yet. I got another shot at this one.”

He likes to describe the tune as “a Flintstones rumble, with Fred in the driver’s seat and Charlie Parker as his passenger.

“The two should never show up in the same sentence!” he adds, laughing. But in this unlikely fusion of “bebop jazz and caveman jazz,” they somehow ride together perfectly — adding some swing as they speed toward “Birdland.”

On an album containing one marvel after another, the title tune, with its symphonic sweep, might be the ultimate definition of a mindblower. What started out as an exercise “just to get my hands talking to each other” turns into an understated, yet dramatic sonic experience.

“It’s almost a magic trick to play what I’m playing underneath the melodies,” Douglas says. “It’s all wrong for the count; really against the grain. You kind of have to find a spot on the floor and stare at it to take your mind off what you’re doing, because if you think about it too much, you’ll go completely out of time and just turn it upside down. It’s like a Rubik’s Cube, this song is.”

It might be tricky to play, but for listeners, the operative word — for the whole album — is magic.