Santa Barbara audiences are probably most familiar with renowned banjo player Bela Fleck from the times he’s played in town with his bluegrass-jazz fusion band Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, but for his next stop here the musician will be playing with a new band that combines disparate musical styles such as bluegrass, classical, and Indian music. On October 19, a trio comprising of Mr. Fleck, double bassist Edgar Meyer, and tabla player Zakir Hussain will make its first ever Santa Barbara appearance during a performance for UCSB Arts & Lectures at Campbell Hall. The band will also feature new member Rakesh Chaurasia on wooden flute.
According to Mr. Fleck, his collaboration with Mr. Meyer and Mr. Hussain came about when the three of them worked on a triple concerto for the opening of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, TN. After recording the concerto with the Detroit Symphony, the three of them felt there was too much musical potential for them to stop working together. Thus, they decided to start touring as a trio. Mr. Fleck recalled how in no time their music grew “in leaps and bounds,” as it has continued to do with the addition of Mr. Chaurasia to the lineup last year.
“He has helped us grow the music in new directions, and we plan to record with this version of the ensemble quite soon,” Mr. Fleck said.
The group’s live repertoire consists entirely of original compositions, penned by permutations of the three original band members. Though some of the group’s music Mr. Fleck admitted is “quite complex,” the collaborative history between each of the musicians meant it didn’t take long for their sound to congeal. Despite the band members’ technical skill on each of their respective instruments, they don’t outplay one another and achieve a balance that Mr. Fleck said is easy to achieve when the right players are put together.
“If you are bringing your ‘listening ears’ to a situation, things tend to ebb and flow naturally. Part of what I love about these musicians is their team work and excellence at support. When everyone prizes those skills, everything suddenly gets easy,” he said.
While elements of bluegrass, classical, jazz, and Indian music are apparent in the group’s overall sound, in Mr. Fleck’s opinion none of these genres can be fully attributed to the trio’s music. Whatever musical genre his trio does play, the banjoist isn’t in any hurry to find a name for it.
“I think we sit firmly between identifiable genres! Bluegrass Indian classical jazz fusion sounds yucky. Let’s not name it,” he said.Tickets for the trio’s performance can be purchased online at www.artsandlectures.ucsb.edu and cost between $40 and $60 for members of the general public. UCSB students with a current student ID can get in for $15. The show will begin at 8:00 p.m. at Campbell Hall on the UCSB campus.