Fleck-Hussain-Meyer and Chaurasia to Bend Genres at Troy Music Hall, May 5
TROY – On May 5, Troy Music Hall will welcome four top-notch musicians for a program that will traverse the boundaries of traditional music genres: Béla Fleck (banjo), Zakir Hussain (tabla), Edgar Meyer (double bass), and their special guest Rakesh Chaurasia (bansuri – Indian flute).
Most musicians hope at most for proficiency in their chosen form, but these gentlemen move from bluegrass to Western classical to Indian classical to jazz, transmuting genres into something uniquely their own as though they’d gotten hold of the alchemist’s tools that legendarily changed lead into gold. In any case, it’s music that transcends description; ineffable, indefinable, and very beautiful.
The story begins around 1980 when Edgar’s friends Sam Bush and John Cowan told him about a guy they thought he’d enjoy playing with, Béla Fleck by name. “We first played together in Aspen, just busking, but we were pretty close pretty early. The thing we had in common was that both of us were completely comfortable talking about music 24/7 – playing, instruments, technology, the machinations of human beings involved, any part of music.” They played even more. “As players,” Edgar added, “we were at a formative stage, so to some degree we were shaped by each other. Béla’s inventive, he cares about the details, and he’s willing to put rhythm above other things, to prioritize it.” And rhythm led to the next step.
Béla recalled, “I met Zakir at a workshop at a festival that he did with (Flecktone member) Future Man. Both Edgar and I thought we could learn a lot from him. When the Nashville Symphony built its new building, they asked Edgar and I to write a concerto. Since we’d recently premiered a double concerto, they suggested a triple concerto with someone special. Zakir immediately came to mind. At first we only composed together, working on The Melody of Rhythm concerto.Then we added the six trio pieces to complete the album, but it was in the touring that we really started to develop a serious musical rapport.”
Working on the concerto with Béla and Edgar was “a revelation,” Zakir says, “an eye-opener, a whole other way to make music, especially for me as an Indian classical musician. I had not imagined that tabla could be incorporated into the world of Western classical music and bluegrass all at the same time. It opened up a whole new avenue for me to explore.”
Béla continues: “As a banjo player, with short percussive notes, I often feel like a percussionist. Playing with like beings who possess a powerful command of time can set me free. Zakir brings flow, support, and an uncommonly strong sense of time to the playing, so I can relax and flow too. And he’s a forward leaner, by which I mean it feels natural to him to let the tempo pick up subtly, as we do in bluegrass music.
“This tour will include new music,” Béla adds, “and ideally we’ll develop a new album out of it. And the new great thing is that this time we’ll also have Rakesh as a regular component, which really opens up the sonic palette. Edgar has a sustain buddy now. Rakesh came out and played with us a good number of times, and it was a profound connection—he’s easy to play with and fun to be around, and it balances the band not only culturally but in terms of sustain.” Edgar added, “Each person in the band is clearly devoted to being a great accompanist as well as a strong soloist. Rakesh will be interacting with Béla and I all the time.”
Béla sums it up: “We all provide things that differ from each other. Edgar brings in a powerful bass sense, and accesses levels of harmony that neither Zakir nor I can offer; he’s really figured out how to interface harmony with Indian music. I don’t know what I bring, but I’m glad neither of them can play banjo! And Rakesh is just the frosting on the cake, or actually on a hipper level, the sherry in the she crab soup. This is going to be fun.”
The show is on May 5, beginning at 7:30 pm. Tickets are priced from $49.50 – $59.50, and go on sale to the general public on Friday, Dec. 2. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit troymusichall.org.