Bela Fleck, Brooklyn Rider mix it up for sellout show.
WORCESTER -- Bela Fleck pulled into Mechanics Hall Wednesday evening with a banjo on his knee and the string quartet Brooklyn Rider in tow. The concert served as the latest installment in Music Worcester's 154th Worcester Music Festival and also kicked off the second leg of a 20-city North American tour for Fleck and Brooklyn Rider.
Grounded in bluegrass, Fleck is known for his genre-busting approach to music and is equally at home playing jazz, rock, folk and a number of other styles. Wednesday evening's concert featured Fleck's most recent foray into classical music, both as a composer and a performer.
Brooklyn Rider (Johnny Gandelsman, violin; Colin Jacobsen, violin, Nicholas Cords, viola; Eric Jacobsen, cello -- and yes, the Jacobsens are brothers) gets its name from Der Blau Reiter (The Blue Rider), an artistic collective based in Munich prior to World War I. Like Fleck, the Brooklyn-based young quartet is adept in a number of musical styles.
A sellout crowd of 1,300 music fans -- a full house for Mechanics Hall -- defied the cold to hear the innovative pairing of Fleck and Brooklyn Rider.
One of the highlights of the two-set concert was a rousing performance of Fleck's "Night Flight Over Water,'' a thee-movement composition commissioned by Butler University.
"Tumbledown Creek'' the first movement, flowed organically from Fleck and the string quartet like a small brook meandering through the countryside. Fleck frequently took the lead melody role with his plucky banjo style.
The second movement, "Hunter's Moon,'' was slower and more mysterious. Cellist Eric Jacobsen dominated this section with some impressive arco (bowed) playing alternating with pizzicato (plucked with the fingers) riffs as Fleck provided a rhythmic banjo counterpoint.
"The Escape,'' the third movement, was a fast-paced excursion that had Fleck plucking arpeggios on his banjo as the string quartet intoned the frenetic theme and its many variations.
Not to be outdone, Brooklyn Rider countered with Three Miniatures for String Quartet sans Fleck. "We have him tied up in the back room,'' quipped violinist Colin Jacobsen, the composer of the piece. The work featured three movements ("Majnun's Moonshine,'' "The Flowers of Esfahan'' and "A Walking Fire'') and was strongly influenced by Persian musician Kayhan Kalhor, one of violinist Jacobsen's mentors.
Elsewhere, Fleck and the quartet turned in a rollicking "Griff'' and a more sedate Fleck composition titled "The Landing.'' Fleck took center stage for a solo rendition of one of the movements from "The Imposter,'' the banjoists's concerto for banjo and symphony orchestra. Here, his exquisite fingerpicking style was much in evidence.
Perhaps the concert's most poignant moment came when Fleck noted the recent death of folksinger (and fellow banjoist) Pete Seeger. "I really haven't prepared anything, but let's see what happens,'' Fleck said before launching a solo medley of Seeger classics ranging from "This Land Is Your Land'' to "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?'' to a moving version of "We Shall Overcome'' that was enhanced by the audience humming along softly with the melody.
Fleck and Brooklyn Rider received a lengthy standing ovation for their efforts. If you missed the concert but are intrigued by Fleck's amalgam of banjo and classical music, look for his "The Imposter'' CD on the Deutsche Grammophon/Mercury Classics label, which features Fleck and Brooklyn Rider performing "Night Flight Over Water'' as well as the title track, Fleck's aforementioned concerto for banjo and symphony orchestra.
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Jan 31, 2014|
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