Bela Fleck and Chick Corea are teaming up for a concert at the Ryman on Sunday. We talked with Fleck to learn more about their album and how the two artists blend the sounds of a jazz player with a bluegrass banjo player.
You recently released your album Two, can you tell us about the selection process for the songs selected for this album?
Two was compiled from the live concert dates which we have been doing now for 9 years. I did a lot of the preliminary listening. And I did it while I was jogging on a beach, mostly. If I found myself running really fast, it was likely to be a really good show!
Then I sent my favorite versions of songs to Chick, and he gave his input. Then we did a serious studio quality mix-down session, and sent it out into the world!
I do believe all that listening stepped things up for the duo musically; the shows we’ve done since making the recording have certainly hit a new high water level.
When did you first start playing together?
The first time was when I invited Chick to play on an album called Tales From The Acoustic Planet, in 1994. I was thrilled and a little surprised when he said yes. And I was satisfied that I had gotten to play with my hero, and had no plans to bother him again. To my surprise a few years later he asked me if I’d consider doing a duo concert tour together. It’s the quickest I’ve ever said yes to anything!
What has been the reactions from the audience when they hear this music?
It’s always been fantastic. People love to have their expectations shattered. I always say that they have such low expectations from the banjo, that they are easy for me to exceed! That works in my favor for sure. But I believe that Chick and I share certain musical traits, and it’s the real reason that this works so well.
And tell us how you found a way to make the sound of jazz and bluegrass sound like they were always meant to be together?
It’s all about being yourself, and with Chick’s unparalleled jazz expertise and all my years in bluegrass, it was pretty natural. And both of us love tight rhythmic music, so we agreed on the feel automatically.
Tell us what it’s like for you to play at the Ryman? We’ve heard you say that most of your shows have their own personality based on the audience interaction, how does the Music City audience respond?
I love the Ryman, it’s one of the great halls I’ve ever played in. And the history makes it ever more special than just the sound quality and responsiveness of the room.
I must point out to anyone who doesn’t realize it – that bluegrass music pretty much originated in that room, when Earl Scruggs first played with Bill Monroe on the Opry.
Chick sat in once with my group Béla Fleck and The Flecktones at the Ryman way back in the mid 1990’s. We also had Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan and Edgar Meyer there that night. It was epic.
This time around it will be just the two of us, and I can hardly wait to hear the instruments together in that room. The room will be a big participant in the music, as will the energy that the audience tends to bring in that place.
And Nashville is my home since 1981, so I’m very proud to play with Chick Corea at the Ryman.
Thanks so much to Bela Fleck for taking time out to answer our questions. Purchase tickets online for the Bela Fleck and Chick Corea concert on Sunday, April 17 at 7:30pm.
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