3

Bela Fleck and The Marcus Roberts Trio: Oakland, CA, August 31, 2012

Ken Vermes By

Sign in to view read count
Béla Fleck and Marcus Roberts
Yoshi's
Oakland, CA
August 31, 2012

Seeing banjoist Béla Fleck and pianist Marcus Roberts is like a roller coaster ride through new musical places. The two recently gave one of the most exciting shows in Yoshi's history, just in time to celebrate the well-known club's forty year anniversary.

In four decades of Yoshi's, there has rarely, if ever, been anything quite like Fleck's performance with the Marcus Roberts Trio, in support of their first recording together, Across the Imaginary Divide (Rounder, 2012) performance. The banjo has not been significant part of any modern jazz group, and especially not fronting a top flight trio like this. And there has never been someone like Fleck—transforming himself into a full-fledge jazzer, improvising at breakneck speed and inspiring the talented Roberts to push himself into the jazz stratosphere—in a straight-ahead jazz group ever.

After two sets, and two standing ovations, the most obvious question is: Where has Fleck been? His regular group, The Flecktones, at times delivers very catchy and iconic hooks, but playing with Roberts and the pianist's absolutely wailing rhythm section—drummer Jason Marsalis and bassist Rodney Jordan—created something so thrilling to that there may not be anything quite like it again anytime soon.

This band was a showcase for originality, complexity, and collaboration. There were no standards, no attempts at delving into jazz history, or much of the history of the banjo itself, except for one original penned by Fleck in a bluegrass style. Fleck used the special qualities of his instrument in new and surprising ways, weaving his way through the pieces using mostly melodic lines, rather than the rhythmic tricks for which the banjo is better known. What was left was a fascinating trip through pure interaction and imaginative invention, the result of a very creative team effort at the highest possible level.

Roberts has fully emerged as a jazz giant, and if he keeps playing with this level of inspiration and joy, he will soon be known as a powerhouse with few equals. This was a night of the highest art. As the audience bounced out of the lobby, it was clear that this performance would be remembered for a very long time. Fleck demonstrated not only the ability to play with musicians on the highest level, but a spirit of joyous celebration that was beyond all genres. This was a very special night.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Bob James Trio with Randy Brecker at the Blue Note Live Reviews Bob James Trio with Randy Brecker at the Blue Note
by Tyran Grillo
Published: August 21, 2017
Read The Songs of Scott Walker (1967-70) at Royal Albert Hall Live Reviews The Songs of Scott Walker (1967-70) at Royal Albert Hall
by John Eyles
Published: August 19, 2017
Read Bryan Ferry at the Paramount Theater Live Reviews Bryan Ferry at the Paramount Theater
by Geoff Anderson
Published: August 19, 2017
Read Newport Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Newport Jazz Festival 2017
by Timothy J. O'Keefe
Published: August 18, 2017
Read FORQ at The World Cafe Live Live Reviews FORQ at The World Cafe Live
by Mike Jacobs
Published: August 18, 2017
Read Mat Maneri and Tanya Kalmanovitch at Korzo Live Reviews Mat Maneri and Tanya Kalmanovitch at Korzo
by Tyran Grillo
Published: August 18, 2017
Read "Balé Folclórico de Bahia at Zellerbach Hall" Live Reviews Balé Folclórico de Bahia at Zellerbach Hall
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: March 19, 2017
Read "Mat Maneri and Tanya Kalmanovitch at Korzo" Live Reviews Mat Maneri and Tanya Kalmanovitch at Korzo
by Tyran Grillo
Published: August 18, 2017
Read "Redwood City Salsa Festival 2016" Live Reviews Redwood City Salsa Festival 2016
by Walter Atkins
Published: September 29, 2016
Read "Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2017
by Doug Collette
Published: June 18, 2017
Read "Tallinn Music Week 2017" Live Reviews Tallinn Music Week 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: April 16, 2017
Read "Rigas Ritmi 2017" Live Reviews Rigas Ritmi 2017
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: July 12, 2017

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.