The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center (The Z) will present banjoists Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn on Sunday, April 12 at 7pm at 684 Purchase Street, New Bedford. Tickets for Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn start at $39, and are available online at www.zeiterion.org, by calling The Z Box Office at (508) 994-2900 Tuesday-Friday 10am- 5pm, and Saturday 10am-3pm. This performance marks Béla Fleck’s fourth appearance with four different musical incarnations at The Z.
Banjo maestro Béla Fleck has reinvented the image and the sound of the banjo through a remarkable performing and recording career that has seen a range of solo projects and collaborations. He’s earned 30 Grammy nominations, 15 Grammy wins, and has been nominated in more different musical categories than anyone in Grammy history. His musical forays have been as diverse as a stand-alone banjo concerto on commission with the Nashville Symphony, to exploring the banjo’s ancestral roots while traveling across Africa and collaborating with some of the continent’s greatest musicians. He’s recorded duo with Chick Corea, and in a trio with Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer. And of course he’s attained near rock star status with his bluegrass-meets-futuristic-funk Flecktones. Béla Fleck and the Flecktones still perform together after 25 years.
For this tour Fleck teams up with fellow musical explorer Abigail Washburn, who also happens to be his wife. She’s a claw hammer banjo specialist and winsome vocalist steeped in bluegrass and American old-time music. In addition, Washburn is passionate about Chinese culture and language (she is fluent), and has created a beguiling repertoire weaving Mandarin lyrics and traditional Chinese melodies together with songs gleaned from the Americana tradition.
Nashville based Abigail Washburn Nashville, released her debut album, Song of the Traveling Daughter, in 2005. The recording features original songs and songs in Chinese. In 2008, Washburn presented Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet, a set of compositions inspired by Americans and Chinese that created an imaginative musical bridge between East and West. At the request of the U.S. government, the Sparrow Quartet toured Tibet in 2006—something no other American band had done. Recently, she played the prominent U.S.A. pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai.
With Abigail’s earthy sophistication of a postmodern, old-time singer-songwriter, and Béla’s virtuosic, jazz-to-classical ingenuity fused with bluegrass roots their music is a one-of-a-kind pairing, with one-of-a-kind possibilities. Though they have collaborated in the past, until last fall, any performances together were decidedly informal: a pickin’ party here, a benefit show at Washburn’s grandmother’s Unitarian church there. It was inevitable and eagerly anticipated by fans of tradition-tweaking acoustic fare that these partners in music and life would eventually do a full-fledged project together.
Given their new duo adventure and the recent birth of their son Juno, Washburn and Fleck playfully embrace the notion that they’ve become a family band. And at home, on stage or on record, it’s their deep bond, on top of the way their distinct musical personalities and banjo styles interact, that makes theirs a picking partnership unlike any other on the planet.
Tickets to Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn on Sunday, April 12 at 7pm are available by phone at 508-994-2900, online at www.zeiterion.org, or in person at the box office at 684 Purchase Street, New Bedford, MA. Box Office Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and two hours before each performance. For more information and a complete listing of shows, visit www.zeiterion.org.