Jul 28, 2014
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Flecktones Thrill at Staller

Béla Fleck & the Flecktones are back together, and a Stony Brook crowd came out in droves to hear them play.

Flecktones Thrill at Staller Flecktones Thrill at Staller Flecktones Thrill at Staller Flecktones Thrill at Staller

A pianist, bassist, banjo player and a pirate playing some kind of hand-held drum machine burst into flames this weekend.

Well, not exactly. But there was certainly a different kind of spontaneous combustion on the Staller Center stage as jammed for nearly two hours to a packed house on Saturday.

The concert, perhaps the Stony Brook University venue's biggest billing of the season, was a pageant of instrumental mastery as long jams on tunes in styles such as jazz, funk, bluegrass and rock thrilled the crowd.

Perhaps the highlight of the concert came from harmonica player and pianist Howard Levy, whose furious playing on the harmonica pushed an instrument just about everybody has stowed away in their homes to limits most people are unaware that the harmonica can reach. Furious licks and chord progressions the musician mixed with the bluesy moments people expect from the harp. At one point, Levy played unaccompanied for a few minutes, touching on all styles including latin, showtunes and even classical music.

The show itself was a treat for Flecktones fans. Not since the group's split-up in 1992 had these four musicians come together, and the spirit of the night definitely felt like a group of old friends coming together to show off what they had learned on their travels. At times, when he speed of the music made their fingers blur, and the unusual rhythms of the pieces caused toes to tap at irregular intervals, the precision of these masters stood out. Not a note was out of place.

But Levy was not the only member to have a solo moment in the concert. They all did, including bassist Victor Wooten who played the bass like it was a grand piano, plucking and beating the strings with both hands, Béla Fleck, whose banjo solo was both tastefully somber and puzzling, and Roy "Futureman" Wooten – who donned a pirate hat for the performance and who played polyrhythms on his Drumitar, an instrument that he invented that includes dozens of sensors linked to sampled drum sounds which he plays like a guitar. It’s something you have to see to believe.

While perhaps the show called out at times for more dynamics – aside from the encore, a bluegrass piece that blasted the hall – the cerebral nature of the music made up for the lack of intensity at times. It was as if the artists didn’t want to muddle any of the notes, not a single one out of the nearly 2 million they probably played.

The Staller Center was filled on Saturday, so if you were there please share your own reviews in the comments below.

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