Béla Fleck is often considered the world’s premier banjo player. The 15-time Grammy winner has earned awards in Jazz, World Music, Classical, Folk, Bluegrass, Pop Instrumental, Gospel and more, and has been nominated in more categories than any instrumentalist in Grammy history.
On March 3, 2017, Fleck will release Juno Concerto (Rounder Records), a concerto for banjo and orchestra, recorded in March, 2016 with the Colorado Symphony, conducted by Jose Luiz Gomez. The album also features two pieces for banjo and string quartet, performed with Brooklyn Rider.
Named for his son Juno, “every note of the concerto is colored by the experience of being a new father, and how that has changed what is important to me as a person, as well as what I wish to express through music,” says Fleck, who became a father for the first time at 55, with his wife, musician Abigail Washburn. Co-commissioned by the Canton, Colorado, South Carolina, and Louisville Symphony Orchestras, Juno Concerto was composed in 2015.
Companion pieces to the Juno Concerto include “Griff” (G riff), featuring Béla with the Brooklyn Rider string quartet, and the second movement of 1984’s “Quintet for Banjo and Strings.” Recorded here for the first time in 2016, the piece was co-written with friend and mentor, Edgar Meyer and was Béla’s first foray into classical music.
“For Juno Concerto, I wanted to take what I had learned from writing and performing my first concerto and apply it here. The Impostor was written in 2011 and now that I’ve had the chance to play it over 50 times, I’ve had the chance to observe what I like and what I think could be different,” says Béla. “This time I wanted to improve my writing for the orchestra, to create more and better slow music, and for the solo parts to focus on flow and things that come naturally to the banjo, rather than attempting to do the nearly impossible, constantly.”
Béla made the classical connection in 2001 with Perpetual Motion, his critically acclaimed, two-time Grammy winning recording with John Williams, Joshua Bell, Evelyn Glennie, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer and others. In 2003, Fleck and Meyer debuted a double concerto for the Nashville Symphony which featured banjo and bass, which they co-wrote. The dynamic pair collaborated again with the Nashville Symphony in 2006 on The Melody of Rhythm, a triple concerto for banjo, bass, and tabla, this time with Indian consummate tabla virtuoso, Zakir Hussain. All of this built up to Béla’s first stand-alone banjo concerto, The Impostor, a commission by the National Symphony which premiered in 2011, followed by the companion documentary, How to Write a Banjo Concerto.