27 February 2022

Approaches to the music

The BIB editor writes:

My bluegrass heart is the name of Béla Fleck's recent, massively impressive two-CD set of instrumental music composed specifically with the instruments and playing styles of the bluegrass band in mind. 'My Bluegrass Heart' is also the name of the stellar group of musicians he assembled for the recordings, who now make up a performing ensemble (see photo above); and the concert on 9 January 2022 by the ensemble at New York's Carnegie Hall is the subject of Jen Hughes's major article and interview, 'Béla Fleck in Carnegie Hall? Be still My Bluegrass Heart!', published on Bluegrass Today a fortnight ago.

The article gives an exciting account of the concert; but the most substantial part is the interview, in which Fleck speaks at considerable length and even greater depth about not just what went into the tunes on this recording, or choosing this group of musicians, but what went into making his musical life - and, indeed, what could go into anyone's musical life. His insights into the influence of playing with Tony Rice and jazz composer/ keyboardist Chick Corea*, and into their own attitudes to music, are - like the rest of the interview - a thought-provoking look into the mindset of a musician at the top of his profession.
A player with a very different experience and approach to the music - but with whom (from my understanding of the interview) Béla Fleck would sympathise - is the subject of an article by Dan Miller in the Feb. 2022 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, 'Don Bryant: a short - but brilliant - bluegrass career'. Like Tom Neal (see the BIB for 18 Jan. 2022), Don Bryant was fully qualified to stand alongside the leading bluegrass musicians; as well as playing banjo for Buzz Busby and Mac Wiseman, he was asked by Lester Flatt to stand in for Earl Scruggs during a period when Earl was in hospital. And like Tom Neal, he decided to make his living in a different field. When a friend, overcome by his playing, said recently 'Man, how can you play that kind of music and keep it to yourself?', he replied 'Well, I really just learned it for myself.'

* Some BIB readers may have seen the concert by Béla Fleck and Chick Corea at the NCH in Dublin in 2017 (see the BIB for 23 Mar. 2017).

© Richard Hawkins

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