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Bela Fleck and The Flecktones - UFO Tofu CD (album) cover


Bela Fleck and The Flecktones


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.15 | 11 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Eclectic & C/JRF Prog Team
5 stars Enigmatic/Eclectic Groove Band's Musical Pinnacle

Sub-genre: Jazz/Rock Fusion (.for hip hillbillies)
For Fans of: Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea Electric Band, any stylistic crossover based on solid groove. People who can't stand the rest of your collection will end up tapping their toes.
Vocal Style: none
Guitar Style: none
Keyboard Style: Primarily midi-piano with rare use of string synth patches and classic electric piano sounds
Percussion Style: Futureman's Synthaxe Drumitar, one of the trademarks of the band. Few can tell the percussion is from a source other than a traditional jazz/rock drum kit.
Bass Style: Slappy, tappy, abundantly groovy and soulful. A number of different electric basses are used, both fretted and fretless.
Other Instruments: Banjo! (electric and acoustic), harmonica, jew's harp, whistles.

Summary: Bela Flek is a banjo player who's fundamental influences and earlier works were primarily shaped by bluegrass. His band, The Flektones, peppers modern jazz writing, production value, and technicality with bluegrass folksy-isms. UFOTOFU represents, in this reviewer's opinion, the pinnacle of this artful blend. The first two works, the self-titled debut and Flight of the Cosmic Hippo were good albums, but lacked the full-flavored spirit of this album. The canvas was stroked with broader textures of the incorporated styles. Flek's banjo tore in with more edge, occasionally using distortion, dissonance and discordance to linger in territories rarely heard from the instrument. Flowing arpeggios backed by Howard Levy's eerie, echoing harmonica create an ambience that tempers the music's technicality with a deep soulfulness. He uses multiple harmonicas to accommodate the vast number of key changes in the music. The album would mark the multi-instrumentalist, Levy's, finale as a full-time member of the group. Victor Wooten, easily a top 5 bass talent in the Jazz/Rock community (and probably all of music, his work on Tribal Tech Tones with Scott Henderson and Steve Smith is highly recommended), mixes wicked funk slapping with warm walks and slides with a fretless bass, not to mention occasionally providing simultaneous bass and melody by playing 2 basses at once. His bass playing supplies an undeniable groove to the project. While his talent in previous albums is evident, it is broadcast in full force in UFOTOFU.

The album opens with a frantic arpeggio that fades into a subtle drum shuffle on The West County. The song is a perfect introduction as it exemplifies the unfamiliar yet comfortable stylistic blends of the album. The structure is so smooth that it is easy to forget how technically brilliant the playing is. The ambience is encountered in other similarly identified songs as True North and the spacey, melancholy closer After the Storm. Hard hitting funkiness breaks in with the second track Sex in a Pan as well as The Yee-Haw Factor, Scuttlebutt and the band's favorite song to display their soloing skills during live performances, Magic Fingers. More experimental musical territory can be found in Life Without Elvis, a somewhat psychotic sounding foray for the band. The technical highlight of the bands instrumental prowess, as well as ensemble cohesiveness is found in the title track, UFOTOFU written as a musical palindrome.

Final Score: An easy 5 stars. This kind of eclecticism is essential to any prog collection.

Tapfret | 5/5 |


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