1. Some Roads Lead Home
2. I'm Gonna Tell You This Story One More Time
3. Across The Imaginary Divide
4. Let Me Show You What To Do
7. One Blue Truth
8. Let's Go
10. The Sunshine And The Moonlight
11. That Old Thing
12. That Ragtime Feeling
Béla Fleck - Banjo
Marcus Roberts - Piano
Rodney Jordan - Bass
Jason Marsalis - Drums
The banjo has been the target of many abusive jokes (e.g. "What's the difference between a banjo and an onion?" "Nobody cries when you cut up a banjo"). Banjoist Béla Fleck may be the man who can put an end to such disrespect, as he has won Grammies for numerous categories of music, including jazz, pop, country and classical crossover.
That versatility is evident in this album recorded by Fleck with the Marcus Roberts Trio. Béla Fleck's first love is bluegrass and you can actually hear Marcus Roberts' trio adapting itself to the elements of bluegrass in Fleck's playing. There is a hillbilly feel at the start of Some Roads Lead Home. Gradually the mood turns to jazz, with Marcus hinting at a gospel style and Jason Marsalis verging on the avant-garde with his unpredictable drumming.
I'm Gonna Tell You This Story One More Time has a Latin-American rhythm, a nice spacious piano solo from Marcus Roberts and a down-home solo from Fleck. By this point in the CD, you know that you are in the midst of that mixture of genres which injects so much freshness into today's jazz. And that mix continues throughout the album. The title-track has a beat that defies counting but it swings like crazy, with banjo, piano and double bass intertwining magically. Let Me Show You What To Do starts with banjo and arco bass stepping carefully before Marcus ups the tempo - but only for a while before the tempo slows again for a dislocated section which precedes a mixture of fast and slow Fleck solos.
All the tunes on the album were composed by Béla or Marcus. They collaborated on Petunia, which is actually very bluegrass. Topaika, on the other hand, is a gentle samba or bossa. One Blue Truth was written by Béla but it sounds like a tune that you have known all your life. Let's Go is fast jazz, with banjo and piano swapping fours before Jason Marsalis' excellent drums join in.
Kalimba suggests the African roots of jazz and bluegrass in its title, as the banjo imitates the South African kalimba or thumb piano. The Sunshine and the Moonlight is a cheerful Marcus Roberts composition, while That Old Thing is a similarly bouncy tune written by Béla Fleck. The album ends with That Ragtime Feeling which actually has a jerky rhythm.
This review has mainly mentioned Béla and Marcus but the CD's success owes a lot to bassist Rodney Jordan and drummer Jason Marsalis (the youngest brother of Wynton Marsalis, in whose band Marcus Roberts made his name). This is an album which often makes you want to shout "Yee-hah!" but also to wonder in astounded silence at the interplay between these four superb musicians and their ability to cover so many different styles. A multi-faceted gem.