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View Full Version : Is there a Ukulele equivalent of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones?



UkeKiddinMe
03-31-2013, 03:28 AM
Is there any jazz/fusion/modern outside the box Ukulele version of instrumental music like Bela Fleck and the Flecktones?

ricdoug
03-31-2013, 06:52 AM
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=james+hill+ukulele&oq=james+hill&gs_l=youtube.1.1.0l10.2080.7274.0.8533.10.8.0.2.2. 0.178.1081.0j8.8.0...0.0...1ac.1.rZiXbLrxmBs

Hippie Dribble
03-31-2013, 07:44 AM
hey Frank, check out Azo Bell & The Old Spice Boys

Alibi of Birdland (http://www.birdland.com.au/catalogue/category634/p45855)

Welcome To The Spice Age (http://www.birdland.com.au/catalogue/category634/p48230)

3 piece out of Australia, uke, tea chest bass and snare, amazing musos, blending jazz with just about everything else you can imagine :)

Brad Bordessa
03-31-2013, 04:48 PM
I'm going to say no (well, maybe). On par with the Flecktones? No. Doing the same genre sort of thing? Maybe.

The banjo has been around for a long time. I think that there are a lot of great banjo players who did a lot of serious exploring before Bela came around. I just don't think the 'ukulele has had enough artists pass through the gauntlet yet to give us the foundation needed to create what Bela has done. I think were really close. James and Jake are pushing things hard, but I think the soonest a "Uketones" thing could come around is if James or Jake decide they want to be the first to do it. It's going to take the rest of 'ukulele players a good many years to catch up to that point of musicianship. But at least the foundation is being built. When the day comes that somebody pulls it off I will be a mile high.

Just my opinion.

However, I will be very interested to see if any legit names come up in this thread.

Hippie Dribble
03-31-2013, 06:35 PM
I will be very interested to see if any legit names come up in this thread.
Azo Bell not legit enough? :confused:

Brad Bordessa
03-31-2013, 07:18 PM
Azo Bell not legit enough? :confused:

He's great, but not really what I'm envisioning when I think "'Ukulele Bela." I dig the bass though! "When you don't have a drum kit, get a soapbox bass to put the band name on!"

Wicked
04-01-2013, 04:13 AM
The thing about the Flecktones is that although Bela is the front man, every member of that group is a virtuoso in his own right. There are currently no ukulele-fronted groups that even remotely approach that. There are clearly individual uke players that have achieved that level of virtuosity - but they have yet to be integrated into a group whose other players reach that calibre.

As I have similarly stated elsewhere on the forum... until the ukulele is commonly seen as a "just another musical tool" and not some magical pod of aloha spirit and pixie dust, then it will remain on the fringe and continue to wax and wane in popularity over the decades.

Tsani
04-01-2013, 05:29 AM
I'm not making any comparison to Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, but there is a lot of non-traditional music being played on the ukulele. I think all of us who play classical music on the uke are trying to change the perception of what the ukulele can be. Rob McKillop, Herman Vandecauter, and Val Sauvage are all heroes of mine. Of course John King paved the way - (RIP). Craig Brandau is doing fine work playing jazz and standards. And then there is Jake.... Inside - and increasingly outside the uke world - Jake is one of those guys who doesn't need a last name (which is kind of a good thing when the last name is "Shimabukuro!"). I don't think we have "arrived" at the end of this process, but the uke is being picked up by a lot of serious musicians, and I think this process will continue. I believe that the uke is more than a "fad" this time around. I really believe that the ukulele is here to stay and will increasingly be used in all kinds of music, not just the popular and traditional Hawaiian genres. (Although there is nothing wrong with those either!):shaka:

RichM
04-01-2013, 07:00 AM
The thing about the Flecktones is that although Bela is the front man, every member of that group is a virtuoso in his own right. There are currently no ukulele-fronted groups that even remotely approach that. There are clearly individual uke players that have achieved that level of virtuosity - but they have yet to be integrated into a group whose other players reach that calibre.

As I have similarly stated elsewhere on the forum... until the ukulele is commonly seen as a "just another musical tool" and not some magical pod of aloha spirit and pixie dust, then it will remain on the fringe and continue to wax and wane in popularity over the decades.

As a long-time banjo player, I find this comment ironic in the extreme. If ever an instrument were marginalized it was the banjo, known primarily as a tool for backwoods hicks and (if you're lucky) bluegrass bands. The notion that the five-string banjo could be a tool for comemporary jazz was a long time coming. Bela Fleck deserves much of the credit for popularizing the banjo as a jazz instrument (and even he started out playing bluegrass and "newgrass"), although he was strongly influenced by banjo virtuoso Tony Trischka, who never put a limit on the kind of music a banjo could play. Because of Bela, other breakthrough player like Alison Brown and Tony Furtado are pushing the limits of what the banjo is allowed to play, and of course bands like Mumford & Sons have made the banjo kind of cool.

I agree that much of the Flecktones' influence comes from it being a band of virtuosos, but I remember a lot of the early Flecktones buzz being essentially "this crazy guy plays jazz on a banjo!." Bela deserves credit for staying true to his vision as a musician, and over time being accepted as a great musician, not just a great banjo player.

I don't know who exactly perceives the ukes as "some magical pod of aloha spirit and pixie dust," but the uke is just waiting for an artist to come forward who has the profound vision that Bela did. I will absolutely agree that, beyond the limits of their scales, any musical instrument can play any music-- and should.

Wicked
04-01-2013, 07:31 AM
Bela deserves credit for staying true to his vision as a musician, and over time being accepted as a great musician, not just a great banjo player.

That is exactly my point. The ukulele (banjo, mandocello, tin whistle...) should be perceived as a tool to creat music. It really makes no difference... it is the musician that matters.

The other members in the group were, in fact, critical to the overall success of the Flecktones. There are plenty of examples of exceptional musicians who are unable to shine because the other members of the group cannot keep up to support them.

As to the "magical pixie dust" thing... there are a number of past discussions where fellow members place some crazy aura on the ukulele. Yes, we all love them...... but it is just a tool - a part of the musical whole.

PS: The banjo was THE original jazz stringed instrument before being overtaken by the guitar. Other players had explored modal playing on the instrument before Bela came along... he was just the guy who was able to succeed. (Bela is usually the first guy in the room to point that out.)

UkeKiddinMe
04-09-2013, 12:38 PM
Anybody else with suggestions for instrumental, modern, music-fusion bands that use ukes?

Dougf
04-09-2013, 02:07 PM
A bit off topic, but speaking of Bela Fleck, definitely check out his documentary, "Throw Down Your Heart".

Wicked
04-10-2013, 02:02 AM
I did not know this until yesterday, but Jake recorded on two tracks on the Flecktones 2003 album "Little Worlds."

Track 25: "Sleeper" with Bobby McFerrin
Track 27: "The Last Jam". with Derek Trucks/Jerry Douglas/Bernie Williams

I can't think of any uke-centric group that fits your request.

OldePhart
04-10-2013, 11:23 AM
I did not know this until yesterday, but Jake recorded on two tracks on the Flecktones 2003 album "Little Worlds."

Track 25: "Sleeper" with Bobby McFerrin
Track 27: "The Last Jam". with Derek Trucks/Jerry Douglas/Bernie Williams

I can't think of any uke-centric group that fits your request.

That's interesting but not surprising - Bela is one of those rare artists who pulls together diverse elements to make something that is more than the sum of it's parts, for sure.

Another master of that "adaptive" ability is Warren Haynes - I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see him put together a tour with Gov't Mule and one of the top-notch ukulele players like Jake, James, Aldrine, Taimane, etc. He's done that with a number of "fringe" musicians who are the tops in their genre. (Actually, Taimane would probably be the best fit with the "jam band" vibe that already surrounds Gov't Mule.)

Remember, if you see one of our heroes headlining with Gov't Mule you heard it here first. :)

John

jefrs
04-10-2013, 01:18 PM
Anybody else with suggestions for instrumental, modern, music-fusion bands that use ukes?

Not sure that it fits the bill but Joe Brown's "The Ukulele Album" is probably worth a listen.

AndrewKuker
04-10-2013, 10:35 PM
The thing is Victor Wooten and his bro, "future man" are such a unique rhythm section. I mean who is even like them, ukulele or none? Bela is one of a kind, but I would imagine someone like James Hill in a band with those being "flecktone-ish". When I saw them at Hawaii Theatre it was the most captivating and impressive performance I had ever witnessed. Even 15 years ago I was blown away, Edgar Meyers did a set on upright with them....unreal... James should duo up with Edgar. I'll call them up now. Who's got their numbers?

Wicked
04-11-2013, 04:41 AM
The thing is Victor Wooten and his bro, "future man" are such a unique rhythm section. I mean who is even like them, ukulele or none?

That was my basic point earlier in the thread. It really is a team effort. Their combined talent allows the audience to forget the specific tools that they are using (banjo, whacky rhythm machine) and get lost in the music.

In the end, it really boils down to ACCESS. As ukulele players are recognized for their musical ability (rather than novelty) their access to high caliber players of other instruments increases – which will eventually lead to a combination that will rock everyone’s socks off.