- UCSB Arts & Lectures presents My Bluegrass Heart.
- Over four decades, banjo legend Béla Fleck’s musical journey has earned him 15 Grammys in nine genres ranging from country to jazz to classical.
- A veritable Who’s Who of some of the greatest instrumentalists in bluegrass history, this unparalleled evening in support of Fleck’s new album features mandolinist Sam Bush, fiddler Stuart Duncan, dobro player Jerry Douglas, bassist Edgar Meyer and Bryan Sutton on guitar.
- Béla Fleck returns to Santa Barbara (and his roots) with his first bluegrass tour in more than 20 years.
- The performance is part of the 2021-2022 CREATING HOPE programming initiative
- Wednesday, December 15 / 8:00 p.m. Pacific / Arlington Theatre
- $38.50 – $103.50 : General Public / $16.00: UCSB Students (Current student ID required)
- Health & Safety: Proof of full vaccination must be presented for entry to the event, and masks must be worn at all times inside the venue. Visit https://artsandlectures.ucsb.edu/SeasonFAQs/ for updates and further details.
- Tickets/Info: (805) 893-3535, www.ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu or (805) 963-4408 / AXS
- This event includes an at-home viewing option (live stream only; no replay).
▶ ▶ ▶ Editors/Reviewers: Please include the full name of UCSB Arts & Lectures in all media coverage, including reviews.
UCSB Arts & Lectures presents American Supergroup My Bluegrass Heart: Béla Fleck, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Bryan Sutton, featuring music from Béla Fleck’s new album My Bluegrass Heart on Wednesday, December 15th at 8:00 p.m. Pacific at Arlington Theatre. The performance is part of the 2021-2022 CREATING HOPE programming initiative.
Over four decades, banjo legend Béla Fleck’s musical journey has earned him 15 Grammys in nine genres ranging from country to jazz to classical. Now, he returns to Santa Barbara (and his roots) with his first bluegrass tour in more than 20 years. A veritable Who’s Who of some of the greatest instrumentalists in bluegrass history, this unparalleled evening in support of Fleck’s new album features mandolinist Sam Bush, fiddler Stuart Duncan, dobro player Jerry Douglas, bassist Edgar Meyer and Bryan Sutton on guitar.
ABOUT BÉLA FLECK
“Béla Fleck has taken banjo playing to some very unlikely places — not just bluegrass and country and “newgrass,” but also into classical concertos, jazz and a documentary about the banjo’s deep African roots, not to mention the time he toured with throat singers from Tuva. He’s also baffled the Grammy awards, winning for country and jazz in the same year and also winning in pop, world music, classical crossover and, yes, folk. That’s a lot of territory for five strings.” — Jon Pareles, The New York Times
“Béla Fleck is one of the most important musicians of all time. He bridges the gap between bluegrass, classical, jazz, world music, and everything in between. It seems like there’s no limit to what he can achieve on the banjo.” – Billy Strings
“They nearly always come back,” said Béla Fleck. “All the people that leave bluegrass. I had a strong feeling that I’d be coming back as well.” My Bluegrass Heart, out September 10, 2021 on Renew Records, is that return the 15-time Grammy winner is talking about – the third chapter in a decades-spanning trilogy which, by his counting, started with 1988’s Drive and continued with The Bluegrass Sessions, released eleven years later. Over the long and lauded course of his unique creative run, Fleck – the world’s premier banjo virtuoso and a celebrated musical adventurer – has both dug deep into his instrument’s complex global history and unlocked the breadth of its possibilities. My Bluegrass Heart is a homecoming in sound, to be sure.
And when you travel, you bring home something new. When the endlessly curious Fleck prepared to make The Bluegrass Sessions, for example, he contemplated some other musical wanderers: “It was ten years after the Drive album, and I had been doing the Flecktones for all that time; I was coming back thinking hmm… what have I learned that I can bring back to bluegrass?” he said. “It resonated with me how Coltrane and Charlie Parker, after studying a lot of music from outside of the jazz world, brought some truly great things back to it from the outside.”
In some ways, Béla Fleck has always thought of himself as coming from the outside of bluegrass. “I don’t come from the South, and I always felt like there were people who were more truly focused on doing that bluegrass thing really well. What I tended to want to do more was expand the banjo’s role and look for new things to do with it. Despite that, I was always a bluegrass guy first and foremost. That was certainly the root of my musical soul.”
Born in New York City and named for the classical giants Bartok, Webern, and Janacek, Béla Anton Leos Fleck first tuned into his musical soul through TV, radio and a lucky encounter on a train ride (just after having received his first banjo from his grandfather) with a banjo player who saw the instrument young Béla was toting, tuned it up, and pointed him to Pete Seeger’s book How To Play The Five-String Banjo. A move to Kentucky some years later immersed him in the sound’s heartland, and led to a spot in the acclaimed progressive bluegrass band New Grass Revival. That stint, in turn, led to the Drive album (now often considered a classic) and the collection of Fleck’s core group of bluegrass comrades, including mandolinist and fellow New Grass Revivalist Sam Bush, guitarist Tony Rice, fiddle player Stuart Duncan, bassist Mark Schatz and dobro player Jerry Douglas, who all (except for Rice, who passed away in 2020) appear on Drive, Bluegrass Sessions, and now, My Bluegrass Heart.
More than anything, it was this group of musicians that drew Fleck home to bluegrass the third time. As the years since Bluegrass Sessions stretched into decades, compositions that seemed earmarked – consciously and unconsciously – for that gang began to pile up. He was hesitant to begin, in no small part because Rice, who was battling ill health, was unavailable: ” Some part of me had been waiting and hoping for him to maybe reappear, because it was such a glorious experience playing with him, and nobody had really taken his place for me,” said Fleck. “Tony Rice was the enabler, the guitar player who made me play the way I wanted to play.”
But he didn’t want the songs to disappear, either. So he started looking closer at the bluegrass scene and discovered, to his delight, a new generation of players had been flourishing, some of whom he knew – like mandolinist and MacArthur fellow Chris Thile, or multi-instrumentalist Sierra Hull, whose Grammy-nominated 2016 album Weighted Mind Fleck had produced – and some he didn’t, like rising star Billy Strings and fiddle avant-gardist Billy Contreras, who Thile introduced him to. Old friends made new ones, and together they made a record – one that bridges musical generations. And what started as a single album became a double album.
“It’s not a straight bluegrass album, but it’s written for a bluegrass band,” he explained. “I like taking that instrumentation, and seeing what I can do with it – how I can stretch it, what I can take from what I’ve learned from other kinds of music, and what can apply for this combination of musicians, the very particularly ‘bluegrass’ idea of how music works, and what can be accomplished that might be unexpected, but still has deep connections to the origins. That’s what I was going for, though I hadn’t done it in a long, long time.”
And whichever of his many styles Béla Fleck is playing, that’s the secret, he said – the people. “That’s my dirty little secret,” he laughed, “that I don’t play that differently from genre to genre. It’s about who I surround myself with. Bluegrass though – it’s central to everything I do.”
See A&L’s full 2021-2022 lineup here
Santa Barbara needs Hope, and Arts & Lectures is uniquely positioned to respond.
A&L’s 2021-2022 CREATING HOPE programming initiative has already inspired our community with presentations by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, chef José Andrés and author Anne Lamott. We will continue to inspire, through shared experiences with thought leaders, creative problem solvers and arts visionaries who will guide us forward. CREATING HOPE programs strengthen human connection, promote emotional well-being, joy and compassion, and envision positive change. Learn more about the CREATING HOPE: https://artsandlectures.ucsb.edu/CreatingHope.aspx
ABOUT UCSB ARTS & LECTURES
Founded in 1959, UCSB Arts & Lectures (A&L) is the largest and most influential arts and lectures organization between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A&L annually presents more than a hundred public events, from critically acclaimed concerts and dance performances by world-renowned artists to talks by groundbreaking authors and film series at UCSB and Santa Barbara-area venues. With a mission to “educate, entertain and inspire,” A&L also oversees an outreach program that brings visiting artists and speakers into local classrooms and other venues for master classes, open rehearsals, discussions and more, serving K-12 students, college students and the general public.
The performance is part of the 2021-2022 CREATING HOPE programming initiative.
$38.50 – $103.50 : General Public / $16.00: UCSB Students (Current student ID required)
For tickets and more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at (805) 893-3535 or visit www.ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu.
UCSB Arts & Lectures gratefully acknowledges our Community Partners the Natalie Orfalea Foundation & Lou Buglioli for their generous support of the 2021-2022 season.