Columbia Records has announced January 31, 2006 as the release date for The Hidden Land, the ninth CD from B???la Fleck & The Flecktones. Though the Flecktones have released two CDs on Columbia since their Grammy winning Outbound in 2000, The Hidden Land is the first serious studio recording since that time.
The new project was recorded in B???la’s home studio with material almost exclusively written by the band members, often in collaboration. The sole non-original piece on the CD is a three part Bach fugue arranged for their unique instrumentation. The Flecktones consist of B???la Fleck on banjo, Victor Wooten on bass, Future Man (Roy Wooten) on percussion, and Jeff Coffin on saxophones. An extensive tour of the United States is also expected in 2006.
In today’s music business, an act that is still commercially viable after 15 years is an anomaly, a true success story. That B???la Fleck & The Flecktones remain so – measured in both sales of recorded product and concert tickets – as a funk/jazz/fusion band fronted by a 5 string banjo player, defies almost every preconception about music and pop culture that one might imagine.
Those of us who can recall the formation of this group 15 years ago may remember the general sense of wonderment when Warner Brothers signed B???la and his new band to a contract. As the details of the style and sound of the new group became more well known, bluegrass lovers and fans of the recently defunct New Grass Revival, and major label and music industry watchers alike, were left scratching their heads trying to figure out what was going on.
A decade and a half later, many folks may still not understand it, but the success speaks for itself and B???la Fleck has established himself as an innovator and a popularizer of an instrument with very few champions in the wider world of international pop music.