Progressive bluegrass-jazz artist Bela Fleck and wife Abigail Washburn among LEAF headliners


Béla Fleck

“Celebrate Unity, Inspire Every Voice” is the theme of the multi-cultural celebration. Artists include hip hopper Talib Kweli, the Bhangra/Celtic ensemble from Canada, Delhi 2 Dublin, harmonious Nahko & Medicine for the People, Afro-Caribbean-East L.A. beats of Las Cafeteras, hip hop legends De La Soul, folk star David Wilcox, “transcendental” folk-rockers Mandolin Orange, bluegrass duo Rising Appalachia and American Steampunk performance troupe MarchFourth Marching Band.

Béla Fleck has won Grammys for half of his nominations — 15 of 30 times, and as far back as 1998. He has been nominated in more different musical categories than anyone in Grammy history.

Béla Fleck and the Flecktones still perform at times, a quarter-century after they helped usher in the “newgrass” sound of a mix of musical styles with bluegrass instruments.

Fleck made his mark in jazz, pop, rock, “world beat” then classical with the Perpetual Motion CD in 2001 that won him two Grammys including for Best Classical Crossover Album. The classical venture fits his names of Béla (for Bartok), Anton (for Dvorak) and Leos (for Janacek).

In 2011, Béla wrote his first stand alone banjo concerto, The Imposter. This was on commission with the Nashville Symphony.

He teams up live with the likes of Chick Corea, and at LEAF with Fleck’s wife Abigail “Abby” Washburn. On his website, Fleck recalls that “the first time I listened to a CD of her music, I started driving so fast that I got pulled over for speeding and was made to walk the line by the men in blue!”

He describes Abby as a “beautiful singer-songwriter who builds her material around her distinctive claw-hammer banjo style. This results in very rooted and soulful, yet original music of the first order.” He noted “our first musical collaboration together resulted in an unconventional string quartet comprised of two banjos, cello and violin and called The Sparrow Quartet.” This was among the first American bands to perform in Tibet, sponsored jointly by the Chinese and U.S. governments.

“Abby and I have played as a duo since we first met, trying impromptu duets at picking parties, doing a few tunes at benefits, and occasional radio shows together,” Fleck said. “But we never took our act on the road — ‘til now. With the birth of our little boy Juno, we decided that the best way to stay together more would be to play together more … Eventually we’ll record a record, but for now we’ll let the duo discover its identity out on the road.”

Tickets can be bought via, or by calling 686-8742.

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