Grammy Award-winning Bela Fleck & the Flecktones have been to Utah time and again — as a group or as solo artists — to perform innovative bluegrass and/or jazz.
This time around, the band — banjoist Fleck, bassist Victor Wooten, percussionist Future Man (born as Wooten's older brother Roy) and saxophonist Jeff Coffin — will bring a special holiday show to Kingsbury Hall.
Last year, the band released its first holiday CD, "Jingle All the Way," which won a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album.
Fleck took some time out of the band's busy schedule to participate in an e-mail interview with the Deseret News. Here's how it went down:
Deseret News: The obvious question is why did you guys decide to record a holiday CD?
Bela Fleck: It is something we have wanted to do since we got together. Every year, we'd play a holiday medley and people would love it. We were waiting for the right time for years. Then we decided to have a quiet year with just a November and December tour, but we really wanted some new music to play. It seemed like the perfect time to go for it, and so we did.
DN: With all the different holiday songs out there, was it difficult to come up with the final, 16-song track listing? Or did you have an idea of what you wanted in regards to diversty and dynamics?
BF: We just kept trying ideas (until) we felt like we had a good balance. There are so many tunes, we really wanted unusual arrangements. So we based it on what we could do something interesting with. We wanted it to be very evocative as well.
DN: Which songs were most challenging, insomuch as getting the sound and arrangements right?
BF: "Twelve Days of Christmas" was the hardest to learn, in my opinion. We played it in 12 keys and 12 time signatures. It was hard to keep it all straight in our heads.
All of them had different challenges, though. Some were just fun, like "Jingle Bells" with Alash, or "Silent Night."
DN: Now as far as the live show is concerned, I understand you will be performing "two long sets" according to the Kingsbury Hall press release. Will you be performing all the songs from "Jingle All the Way?"
BF: We like to play two sets, usually an hour or so long each, plus encores.
The big news is that we will be joined on this show by Alash, the throat-singing group from Tuva. They are coming all the way from Siberia to play with us on this tour. If you have never heard of throat singing, you need to see this.
Another surprise is a pal who is traveling with us who happens to be one of the best fiddlers on the scene. Casey Driessen will be joining us on some tunes.
DN: Will you be performing some non-holiday tunes as well?
BF: Yup. We'll play a lot of material from "Jingle All the Way" and some of our own older compositions.
DN: And finally, since you have been to Salt Lake quite a few times in your career, you have an idea of what to expect from the audiences? Do you add certain songs into the list that you know Salt Lake audiences are keen on hearing?
BF: On this tour, since we have Alash with us and we are playing so much of the holiday material, we are not changing the set list as much from day to day.
As the tour goes along, we are re-learning some of our older stuff.
I will say that Salt Lake has always been a great town for me and the Flecktones. I look forward to seeing you there soon.
If you go…
What: "The Holiday Tour:" Bela Fleck & the Flecktones
Where: Kingsbury Hall, University of Utah
When: Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $27.50-$45