Red Light Management

Béla Fleck

www.belafleck.com

Bio

Over the past half-century, Béla Fleck has exploded the parameters of the banjo, taking his staggering musicality to inspired blends of bluegrass, fusion, folk, jazz, classical, global music and more. In the process he’s won 18 Grammy Awards and rightfully earned a reputation as one of our most brilliant instrumentalists.

And yet…when Fleck speaks of his years-long collaboration with the late pianist Chick Corea, he can sound like a bashful student musician, still obviously in awe of the jazz titan whose impact transformed him as a teenager in the ’70s. “I just feel so lucky to have played with him in such an intimate way, and to have gotten to know him so well,” Fleck says. “It’s one of the greatest things that’s happened to me, and I don’t think anything’s going to top it.”

Remembrance, a new double album out May 10, serves as a moving final document of the profound creative and personal rapport that Fleck and Corea first showcased at album length with 2007’s Latin Grammy-winning The Enchantment. It’s also a crucial addendum to Corea’s legacy, featuring three previously unreleased Corea compositions as well as five short free improvisations, or impromptus, that Fleck has infused with written music.

Recorded both in concert, during the duo’s final tour dates in 2019, and via traded sound files, in the midst of the Covid pandemic, Remembrance runs a stylistic gamut — from new Fleck tunes like the majestic “The Otter Creek Incident” and “Juno,” a winsome tribute to his son, through clairvoyant interpretations of Thelonious Monk and Scarlatti, to challenging exercises, like Fleck’s “Small Potatoes,” that evoke Corea’s unsung work in the jazz avant-garde. “We pushed this duo to a new place before we ran out of time,” Fleck says. “We have here another cool look at Chick Corea, at the different ways that he can play that we wouldn’t have had. There’s a lot of great Chick Corea out there, and this is different.”

Ultimately, it’s Corea’s unreleased tunes that are perhaps the most affecting element of the set. In addition to the remarkably perceptive playing, Fleck explains, “There’s some great Chick writing here too.” Those pieces include “Enut Nital” (or Latin Tune, spelled backwards); “Continuance,” an older work that resurfaced in the duo’s setlist; and the bittersweet dance of the title track. “‘Remembrance’ is a great new Corea piece — just one of those perfect Chick Corea tunes,” Fleck says. “It sounds to me like a New Orleans funeral march, even though it has a Latin component, like everything he did tended to. But in a way, it’s also like he wrote his own funeral song.”

Corea’s death in 2021, of cancer at age 79, devastated the jazz community, who saw the pianist as a constant international presence, a vibrant musician who never ceased touring and recording. “It was a deep shock,” says Fleck, sounding especially reflective. “It was one of the special relationships in my life. He was just so kind to me, and so helpful, and I learned so much from him. It was a great thing to get a call from Chick. He was always curious, his ears were always wide open, and he was always positive.”

Before he was the pianist’s dear friend and collaborator, Fleck was something of a Corea superfan. He recalls first hearing Corea in jazz appreciation class at his New York City high school. Justin DiCioccio, the respected educator-musician, cued up Corea’s jazz standard “Spain,” as performed by the pianist’s seminal fusion group Return to Forever. The headlong thrust, the simmering intensity, reminded Fleck of the bluegrass he’d become immersed in, and “I could imagine it on the banjo immediately,” he says. “It had that edge to it.” The following year, at the Beacon Theatre near Fleck’s Manhattan home, the classic mid-’70s quartet lineup of Return to Forever blew the young musician’s mind completely. “I had a visceral experience of love and joy and worship,” Fleck remembers, “like a teenage boy would.” (Well over a decade later, Fleck would tap into that experience when forming his own fusion juggernaut. “Return to Forever was the template for the Flecktones,” he admits.)

As an aspiring banjo player, Fleck came to hold “Spain” as a kind of Rosetta stone — especially Corea’s unforgettable solo. “I kept trying to learn it,” he says. “Every time I came back, it had that magical impression on me — the same way Earl Scruggs playing ‘The Ballad of Jed Clampett’ had a big impact on me, and still does.”

When it came time to record Crossing the Tracks, his pathbreaking 1979 debut LP for Rounder, Fleck included an arrangement of “Spain.” He sent Corea a copy of his record, to which the pianist corresponded back: “Béla — Keep on creating.” Fast-forward to the mid-’90s: Fleck, at that point a bona fide star of instrumental music, got to work on his solo album Tales From the Acoustic Planet, and invited Corea to guest on three tracks, including a duet called “Bicyclops.” “That was the first time we’d ever played together,” Fleck says. “We just got a groove on. And that’s part of why he asked me to do The Enchantment, even though it was some years later.”

That 2007 breakthrough release, consisting mostly of Fleck’s original music alongside four Corea tunes, more than delivered on the promise of two absolute masters in symbiosis. Throughout The Enchantment, Fleck and Corea deploy spellbinding technique, but never for its own sake; a compelling command of volume and textural dynamics; and a shared adoration for melody. “It’s one of my proudest moments,” Fleck says, “and I thought, ‘If that’s all I get to do with Chick Corea, I’m a lucky man.’”

The Enchantment won a Latin Grammy for Best Instrumental Album, and gave the duo material to tour on, intermittently but rewardingly, in the years to come. Their flowing, sparring onstage discourse developed further, as did their camaraderie on the road. “I shared bluegrass with him. And there was one trip where he said, ‘Tell me about this Beatle thing,’” Fleck recalls. “I got to turn Chick Corea on to the Beatles. I brought out a mixtape and told him all the stories of the songs.” A live double album released in 2015, Two, chronicled the artists’ strengthening union. “Now we had a rapport and a chemistry,” Fleck says, “and I was more comfortable in a jazz context, with a real live jazz hero.”

As Fleck adds in his touching liner notes for Remembrance, “It occurred to me that maybe my job wasn’t to attempt to be his equal. It was to be myself and to provoke new things out of him. I became quite thrilled at what I could instigate!”

For the duo’s 2019 concerts, Fleck and Corea brought in new songs, with enthralling results for the performers and audiences alike. On the last night of their tour, Fleck suggested he go to Florida, where Corea lived, to record this new music; Corea replied, “We just did!” The pianist’s engineer had been capturing the dates all along. “You’re the producer,” Corea encouraged Fleck, explaining that he should review the tapes and report back with his track picks. “It wasn’t until the pandemic that I had the time. Also, I was scared to listen because I have an inferiority complex, well earned from playing with Chick Corea!” Fleck laughs. “But when I did go through it, I found some great versions of the new material.”

Fleck and Corea also used pandemic downtime to trade and finish recordings of each other’s new compositions — namely Fleck’s “The Otter Creek Incident,” Corea’s “Enut Nital” and the impromptus. Regarding those interlude-like pieces, Fleck explains, “I always noticed Chick would play these unbelievable improvisations before we’d start songs. And I wanted to get in there and play on those, because they were so expansive and unusual every single time.

“So I asked him to record some of those. He knocked them out in a few minutes, and I labored over them. I thought, ‘What could go with this? What would actually make this into a classical composition?’ I came up with banjo arrangements that basically supplied melody and counter rhythms.”

During the long-distance tracking process, Fleck discovered yet another angle of Corea’s wizardry — his approach to overdubbing. “He said something like, ‘If you’re going to do it, you’ve got to make it real, you’ve got to take the time. If so, it can be great,’” Fleck remembers. “And he showed me what a great overdubber he was.” Consequently, the continuity between the live and traded tracks on the album is utterly seamless, save for spots of rousing concert-hall applause.

In the end, Fleck’s most powerful remembrance of the process, and of his duo partner in general, is Corea’s overwhelming sweetness, his unwavering generosity. “He found the good in everything,” Fleck says. “I’m just so glad to be a part of this — glad I could be with him, and glad there’s more to share. We pushed the bar up a little higher in terms of what was possible.”

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Contact

Agency - Classical & Symphony

Tour Dates

May 31 2024
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn @ Blue Note Tokyo
Minato, Japan
May 31 2024
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn @ Blue Note Tokyo
Minato, Japan
Jun 01 2024
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn @ Blue Note Tokyo
Minato, Japan
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Jun 01 2024
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn @ Blue Note Tokyo
Minato, Japan
Jun 02 2024
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn @ Blue Note Tokyo
Minato, Japan
Jun 02 2024
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn @ Blue Note Tokyo
Minato, Japan
Jun 13 2024
Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer & Rakesh Chaurasia @ Groton Hill Music Center
Groton, MA
Jun 14 2024
Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer & Rakesh Chaurasia @ Ulster PAC
Kingston, NY
Jun 15 2024
Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer & Rakesh Chaurasia @ The Bushnell
Hartford, CT
Jun 16 2024
Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer & Rakesh Chaurasia @ Longwood Gardens
Kennett Square, PA
Jun 18 2024
Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer & Rakesh Chaurasia @ Chautauqua Amphitheater
Boulder, CO
Jun 20 2024
Telluride House Band @ Telluride Bluegrass Festival
Telluride, CO
Jun 21 2024
Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer ft. Rakesh Chaurasia @ Telluride Bluegrass Festival
Telluride, CO
Jun 29 2024
Béla Fleck w/ Eastern Festival Orchestra @ Eastern Festival
Greensboro, NC
Jun 30 2024
Béla Fleck w/ Eastern Festival Orchestra @ Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts
Boone, NC
Jul 06 2024
Béla Fleck w/ The Cleveland Orchestra @ Blossom Music Center
Cuyahoga Falls, OH
Jul 12 2024
Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer & Rakesh Chaurasia @ Vancouver Island Musicfest
Courtenay, Canada
Jul 16 2024
Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer & Rakesh Chaurasia @ Riverwalk Center
Breckenridge, CO
Jul 17 2024
Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer & Rakesh Chaurasia @ Aspen Music Festival
Aspen, CO
Jul 18 2024
Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer & Rakesh Chaurasia @ The Lensic PAC
Santa Fe, NM
Jul 20 2024
Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer & Rakesh Chaurasia @ The Lincoln Center
Fort Collins, CO
Jul 22 2024
Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer & Rakesh Chaurasia @ Millenium Park Music Series
Chicago, IL
Jul 27 2024
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn @ RockyGrass
Lyons, CO
Aug 01 2024
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn @ Grand Teton Music Festival
Teton Village, WY
Aug 17 2024
Béla Fleck's Blue Ridge Banjo Concert @ Brevard Music Center
Brevard, NC
Sep 10 2024
Béla Fleck, Edmar Castañeda, Antonio Sanchez Trio @ Blue Note
New York, NY
Sep 10 2024
Béla Fleck, Edmar Castañeda, Antonio Sanchez Trio @ Blue Note
New York, NY
Sep 11 2024
Béla Fleck, Edmar Castañeda, Antonio Sanchez Trio @ Blue Note
New York, NY
Sep 11 2024
Béla Fleck, Edmar Castañeda, Antonio Sanchez Trio @ Blue Note
New York, NY
Sep 12 2024
Béla Fleck, Edmar Castañeda, Antonio Sanchez Trio @ Blue Note
New York, NY
Sep 12 2024
Béla Fleck, Edmar Castañeda, Antonio Sanchez Trio @ Blue Note
New York, NY
Sep 13 2024
Béla Fleck, Edmar Castañeda, Antonio Sanchez Trio @ Blue Note
New York, NY
Sep 13 2024
Béla Fleck, Edmar Castañeda, Antonio Sanchez Trio @ Blue Note
New York, NY
Sep 14 2024
Béla Fleck, Edmar Castañeda, Antonio Sanchez Trio @ Blue Note
New York, NY
Sep 14 2024
Béla Fleck, Edmar Castañeda, Antonio Sanchez Trio @ Blue Note
New York, NY
Sep 15 2024
Béla Fleck, Edmar Castañeda, Antonio Sanchez Trio @ Blue Note
New York, NY
Sep 15 2024
Béla Fleck, Edmar Castañeda, Antonio Sanchez Trio @ Blue Note
New York, NY
Sep 21 2024
Béla Fleck, Edmar Casteñada, Antonio Sanchez Trio @ FreshGrass
North Adams, MA
Sep 27 2024
Béla Fleck w/ Vermont Symphony Orchestra @ Flynn Center
Burlington, VT
Sep 28 2024
Béla Fleck w/ Vermont Symphony Orchestra
Rutland, VT
Oct 04 2024
Béla Fleck w/ Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra @ Music Hall
Cincinnati, OH
Oct 05 2024
Béla Fleck w/ Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra @ Music Hall
Cincinnati, OH
Oct 12 2024
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn @ Pawley's Island Festival of Music & Art
Pawleys Island, SC
Oct 13 2024
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn @ CaveFest
Pelham, TN
Oct 17 2024
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn @ Appell Center for the Performing Arts
York, PA
Nov 16 2024
Béla Fleck w/ Colorado Symphony @ Boettcher Hall
Denver, CO
Nov 17 2024
Béla Fleck w/ Colorado Symphony @ Boettcher Hall
Denver, CO

News

05/10/2024

CHICK COREA & BÉLA FLECK – FINAL DUO PROJECT REMEMBRANCE OUT NOW

CHICK COREA & BÉLA FLECK FINAL DUO PROJECT REMEMBRANCE OUT NOW NEW ALBUM OF PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED COREA & FLECK COMPOSITIONS LISTEN TO REMEMBRANCE (more…)

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