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GoldenPlec interviews Bela Fleck

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Banjo jazz? It sounds like a euphemism for something questionable. But though the banjo is often associated with white roots and folk music, it actually has its origins in the same Afro-American tradition that gave rise to blues and jazz - so the association isn't so strange after all. And then again, Béla Fleck has never been particularly concerned with genres.

Named after composer Béla Bartók, in his 30-year career Fleck has been nominated for grammies for Folk, Country, Bluegrass, Jazz, Pop and World Music. He's won 14 times for both his own work with the Flecktones and for guest spots with bands like the legendary Asleep At The Wheel. And in 2016 he won yet again, this time for his first recording with his wife, Abigail Washburn, herself a virtuouso banjo player with similarly adventurous musical tastes. 

When they're duetting, Fleck and Washburn can make their instruments sound like anything from medieval lutes to arabic ouds to Chinese zithers. But Washburn's vocals always call them back to the American roots music tradition, and their last recording, ‘Echo In The Valley' saw them mix their own tunes with Appalachian folk songs and bluesy versions of classics like "My Home's Across the Blue Ridge Mountains". 

Fleck has always been as prolific in touring as he's been in recording, and we spoke to him ahead of a spring tour that starts in Dublin, stops off for a couple of dates in the UK, and then winds for months through the American heartland and south. 

READ THE Goldenplec Q&A