BELA FLECK: The Imposter Concerto; Night Flight Over Water – Bela Fleck, banjo/ Nashville Sym./ Giancarlo Guerrero/ Brooklyn Rider (Night Flight) – Mercury/DGG BOO18701-02 [8/13/13] ****:

Souvenirs [TrackList follows] – Matthew Coley, marimba. Mary Drews, p./ Cory Hills, vibes/ Iowa State Percussion Ens./John Kizilarmut, vobes & glockenspiel/others – self ****:

The banjo – brought into another world by the talented Bela Fleck.

Bela Fleck is one of those amazing performers who has stretched his supposedly lowly instrument into the exploration of every sort of musical genre.  Here is the world premiere of two of his compositions: one for banjo and symphony orchestra, and the other for banjo and string quartet. Any fans of any of Bela’s music will probably want to have this one.

Fleck has approached the first work as a serious concerto for his five-stringed instrument and symphony orchestra. It’s three movements are titled Infiltration, Integration and Truth Revealed. His banjo playing is absolutely without equal, while parts of the score sound something like one of the poorer scores of John Williams. He says he got the skills for writing this concerto entirely on his own after having collaborated with partner bassist/composer Edgar Meyer on a double concerto and then a triple concerto. The sonics are excellent and the Nashville players are up to the task of backing Fleck skillfully.

Night Flight was commissioned by Butler University, and created for the Brooklyn-based young string quartet, Brooklyn Rider. He wrote out a bunch of things to see what the quartet could do with them, and they played all of them so well he had a difficult time deciding what to use. It’s three movements are: Tumbledown Creek, Hunter’s Moon and The Escape. For inspiration he credits the members of his usual quartet plus Chick Corea and Marcus Roberts.


Matthew Coley is both a modern dancer and a percussionist, and considers himself a kinetic sound artist. He has also soloed on cimbalom, dulcimer and glass harmonica, as well as performed on multiple percussion instruments.

There are works by seven composers on his CD, concluding with one for marimba and piano which he wrote. The disc opens with a Piazzolla tango for two pianos, with the first piano part played by Coley’s marimba. The work by Broström is titled Trois Tableaux and the tableaus are 1910, 1911 and 1913. One of the two by Berkhout is Running Towards Empty and features vibes, glockenspiel and marimba. Souvenir from Chisinau has four movements and is composed in a Klezmer style since that is one of the places where that genre was developed and played over. The recordings were made in a recital hall at Iowa State University.


Piazzolla: Michelangelo 70 from Tangs for Two Piano; Blatevicz: Sonata for Marimba; White: Fugue Odyssey; Berkhout: Glitz!; Running Towards Empty; Broström: Trois Tableaux; Galay: Souvenir from Chisinau; Coley: Journey for Marimba and Piano

—John Sunier