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Bela Fleck invests in his music

Carl St. Clair Banjoist Bela Fleck started his musical journey at the age of 15. His influences included Flatt & Scruggs, bebop and pop. In 1982, he joined New Grass Revival, helping the progressive bluegrass band break through to the mainstream.

In 1989, Fleck formed his own band, the Flecktones, with bass player Victor Wooten and percussionist Future Man. The Flecktones still play more than 200 concert dates a year. Their live albums feature contributions from such notables as Amy Grant, Dave Matthews and Shawn Colvin. In addition to more popular forms of music, Fleck has also done groundbreaking work in the field of classical music, transposing such virtuosic pieces as Bach's "Well Tempered Clavier" to the banjo. His latest classical and crossover collaboration is with bassist Edgar Meyer, on the album "Music for Two."

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Fleck is so versatile that he's received Grammy nominations in a breathtaking number of categories: bluegrass album, contemporary jazz album, pop instrumental performance, country instrumental performance, spoken word recording, gospel album, contemporary folk album and world music. He won Grammys in the categories of best contemporary jazz instrumental, best classical crossover album and best instrumental arrangement.

Bankrate.com: What are your latest projects?

Bela Fleck: Besides my work with Edgar Meyer and my triple album, "Little Worlds," I've been touring -- a lot of touring. I was up in the Northeast, but then I went with the Flecktones to Florida. In the winter, that's where you want to be!

Bankrate.com: You changed labels to Sony. What kind of changes in recordings or marketing did you expect to see?

Bela Fleck: To tell the truth, there's not that big a difference between the labels. The key is, whether they are excited in you or not. They know they're not going to clean up with me, but we do hold our own. We're not a big money pit. They do hope that there'll be some hits in a strong catalogue of our music.

Bankrate.com: You've had to create much of the music you perform. Do you think there is an entrepreneurial side to you?

Bela Fleck: I have ambition, but mostly a deep love of music. It's self-preservation, really; I have to figure out how to make a living for myself. I have friends in the business who aren't doing so well. They say I have a great marketing sense, but I don't see it. I'm really not into marketing. But I'm always thinking how to package myself, how to connect. It's a lot of work.

Bankrate.com: Do you think that your broad repertoire in several genres may be the key to bringing classical music to the younger generation?

Bela Fleck: My record "Perpetual Motion" sold a lot more than most classical records do. Now, people who listen to a lot of jazz usually listen to classical, too. But, people who listen to bluegrass don't listen to classical music, but they listened to me. They usually listen to bluegrass, country or folk. I've had bluegrass people come up to me, thanking me for opening them up to another world.

-- Posted: May 11, 2004




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