Bela Fleck and the Flecktones: Outbound
July 3, 2000
I've spent the weekend absorbing an advance copy of Outbound (street date is 7/25). I swear I don't know of any other artist (except John Zorn) who can cover so much of a range of genres so effectively in a single disc. In the press release, Fleck cites ELP's version of Aaron Copland’s Hoedown as the one he got to know first of this work. With Adrian Belew's and Jon Anderson's presence on the disc as well, Fleck has strongly referenced three of my favorite bands from my early/mid'70s adolescence, ELP, Yes and King Crimson. Anderson is on "Moment So Close," and it sounds at times like a Yes tune from the "90125" era.
Speaking of Zorn, Fleck's "Lover's Leap," one of my favorites on the disc, is one that Fleck says he would have shied away from doing a few years ago. The press sheet describes it as a Weill/cabaret type tune, but I hear it more as the off kilter film noir-ish type Zorn does so well. Great stuff. I also am partial to "That Old Thing," which turns up as the last full tune as well as a prelude disc-opener.
I like the horn arrangement of that opening prelude--strongly reminds me of how the classic "Monk's Music" LP began, with a passage from a spiritual arranged for horns only, before slamming into "Well You Needn't." In Fleck's case, he slams into "Hoedown."
Not much more time to report right now, but I can say there's something on here for everyone (it clocks in at 1 hour, incidentally). I would definitely rank it in the top half of Flecktones projects. I certainly rate it well ahead of Left of Cool and 3 Flew.
One thing I am excited about are the details of Fleck's new contract: 5 albums, two Flecktones projects on Columbia, two Fleck 'classical' projects on Sony Classical, and one Fleck Jazz album. Yes, I like the Flecktones, but they have never been my favorite context for Fleck, and this contract means that we should be hearing an even wider range from Fleck with Columbia/Sony than we did during his WB period.
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I received this e-mail from Bela today, referencing what I'd quoted from the press info that came with the advance copy of his upcoming CD (Outbound).
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Glad you liked the record. One thing that may be incorrect in the press release -- I first heard Hoedown at the High School of Music and Art, the original Copland version. That's when I first thought of doing it. Later I heard the ELP version and liked it too. The Flecktones worked up a bluegrassy version of Hoedown which we played briefly in 1998 I believe, around the time that Jeff joined up with us.
I was also familiar with a version that Sam Bush had played with the Louisville Mandolin Orchestra, and I believe the Modern Mandolin Quartet did a version as well.
A fan mentioned the piece to me, and someone sent me a tape of both of those versions. This is what prompted the most recent version.
I also listened to Oliver Nelson's version which is quite different, and ELP actually incorporated it as well. There is a circle of 5ths section that neither ELP nor we used. Too many parts already, it seemed superfluous.
Much more than you wanted to know, I'm sure. Mostly I didn't want people to think this was only inspired by ELP, who nevertheless did play a big part!
All My Best,
PS Feel free to post