Bela Fleck Leads Banjo Roundtable At Symphony Space

Bela Fleck Leads Banjo Roundtable At Symphony Space – Sunday 10-23-16

The brilliant Bela Fleck invited some of his favorite banjo players to Symphony Space for an event that highlighted the range of sounds that the instrument can make across models, playing styles, and regional traditions.  The mutual respect and admiration among Bela Fleck, Abigail Washburn, Seamus Egan, Tony Trischka, and Don Vappie was evident as the five musicians took individual turns and teaming up in various combinations.   A pair of four-string banjos played with flat picks, a pair of five-strings played with finger picks, and a five-string played with a raw hand offered dramatic examples of the rich possibilities.

I met Fleck on the afternoon of the show while he was gathered with the artists he would later take the stage with.  He explained that he got the idea for the roundtable by seeing a similar format but with singer/songwriters in Nashville.  It struck him how, with contemporaries staying on the stage even when not active, they really put out and it got the best out of everyone.  He mentioned that rehearsal is at a minimum and spontaneity at a maximum.

After trying the idea a few years ago at Penn State, Fleck decided to put it on in grand style to finish up a handful of performances this month at Symphony Space.  As Egan, Vappie, Trischka, Washburn, and Fleck all have diverse backgrounds, the key to the night was finding common ground and finding ways to complement each other.

Fleck and Washburn have been touring with six or seven banjos on stage and their 3 year-old son Juno on the bus.  They are working on their second duo album together.  He’s also working on new material with Chris Thile and gave me a definite maybe when I asked if he might make it to the Blue Note to sit in with Chick Corea during his 75th birthday run.

Here’s some bonus bits from the interview…

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