Well not American Idol (Adam Lambert is this Monday at 9:30 club)...but one of my idols - Béla Fleck! He's been at Wolf Trap several times in the past, but today was the first opportunity I had for an intro, and it was certainly a unique experience. Around 4 pm today, I was asked to show up backstage at 6pm to take a few photos of Béla Fleck with a stuffed bison (yep) for a National Park Service promotion featuring celebrity photos. I happily obliged and headed over to find an affable Fleck in ultimate pre-show chill out mode, ready for the shoot. Six shots later we had what we needed, and I capped the experience by having my colleague Barbara take a photo of Béla and me together.
I've been a gigantic fan of his since I was in high school, particularly his work with The Flecktones, featuring horn player Jeff Coffin (who has recently taken a hiatus from the band to tour as the replacement saxophonist for the Dave Matthews Band upon losing Leroi Moore last year to an ATV accident), bassist Victor Wooten, and percussionist Roy Wooten "Futureman". A more talented group of guys, I cannot imagine. They literally send you to another world during a live performance with their crazy experimental blend of jazz, funk, rock, and R&B. I've somewhat lost track of Béla's career over the past five years or so as my taste in music has recently taken a turn towards indie, bluegrass, and certain forms of electronica (Yeasayer, LCD Soundsystem type electronica, not house and techno), but my meeting with him has inspired me to re-invest myself in his catalogue, starting with the later Flecktone records, ultimately moving towards his work as part of the Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer Trio, which is appearing tonight at Wolf Trap on the bill with Chick Corea Freedom Band. Plenty of tickets are still on-sale, so brave the heat, bring a cooler of your most refreshing libations and plop yourself on the lawn for an evening of musical virtuosity.
Click here for a great interview with Béla and audio b-roll of a 2008 gig in Colorado courtesy of PlumTV.