Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer

Date and Venue 24 October 2009, 8pm | Chan Shun Concert Hall, Chan Centre

Reviewer John Jane

Recently formed trio, banjo player Béla Fleck, bassist Edgar Meyer and tabla legend Zakir Hussain (the son of the tabla virtuoso Ustad Alla Rakha) swept into Vancouver to play at the Chan Centre on the last stop of their current tour in support of their collaborative recording, The Melody of Rhythm. A selection of well crafted original music that intertwines American jazz and blues roots with classical Indian percussion.

Béla Fleck’s genre-bending banjo playing has taken him from bluegrass to world music with stops at jazz-fusion and new age along the way. His eclectic approach has seen him to perform at such diverse gigs as Pete Seeger’s ninetieth birthday celebration this Spring alongside Joan Baez and Bruce Springsteen at Madison Square Garden and sharing the stage with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

The concert got under way with the oddly named Bubbles, a mind-bogglingly complex tune that belies its simple title and Babar, which seemed to blend exotic mystical rhythms with rich, folksy melody lines associated with the Appalachians. Next was Cadence, originally composed as an orchestral arrangement, it’s sweeping, intoxicatingly melodic rhythms with constantly shifting time signatures make it a euphonic listening experience.

With three musicians who are innovators on their respective instruments, it was inevitable that we would hear some inspired solo passages. Hussain mesmerised the audience with a six-minute tabla intro to Out of the Blue. Fleck’s trademark bluegrass inflections on this piece were unmistakable, as it was with one of his own solo passages featured on Then Again that began the trio’s second set.

The guys concluded their regular programme with the absurdly evocative Green Slime and some free improvisation on the lyrical Pile-Up, a tune that Fleck and Meyer had recorded together on the 2004 “Music for Two” album.

For the last couple of decades, Messrs Fleck, Hussain and Meyer have individually been creating some of the most interesting and joyously eclectic instrumental music available on recordings. That they can come together on the stage and speak the same musical language, despite their different backgrounds is a testament to their enormous talent.

© 2009 John Jane