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Bela Fleck and the Flecktones: Left of Cool

Ed Kopp By

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Bela Fleck is one of the most innovative musicians in contemporary jazz: he has completely recast the role of the banjo in jazz. Honorary Flecktone Jeff Coffin joins the fold on Left Of Cool, a lengthy and intermittently absorbing CD. Coffin is a Nashville saxophonist who's far jazzier than Paul McCandless, the saxman who usually plays with the Fleckmen. Coffin is a nice addition to the band, though apparently it's a temporary arrangement. This is no landmark album, but many of its melodies will grow on you. I particularly like "Throwdown at the Hoedown," "Big Country," "Trane To Conamarra," and most especially the old-timey jazz number "Sleeping Dogs Lie." Many of these 15 tracks are extremely mellow, but Fleck, Coffin and bass virtuoso Victor Wooten make them interesting. I would have preferred to hear more of Fleck's banjo synth and far less of Future Man's reedy vocals. I also prefer real drums to Future Man's synth-drumitar contraption, but I must admit his invention sounds amazingly like a real drum set. I'll also concede that Future Man and his non-drums are visually appealing in concert. Dave Matthews does a Sting immitation on "Communication," and Amy Grant appears on one tune. An OK Flecktone release, but the boys have done better.

Title: Left of Cool | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Warner Bros.

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