Béla Fleck & the Flecktones

Left of Cool

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By the release of 1998's Left of Cool, Béla Fleck & the Flecktones' once-startling blend of fusion, jazz, and bluegrass had lost its ability to surprise. That didn't necessarily mean that they had run out of ideas, but it does mean that Left of Cool simply isn't as captivating as earlier efforts by Fleck. For most fans, the pleasure will be finding the little details within the solos, and there's no denying that the group -- which now boasted Jeff Coffin in addition to Fleck, Victor Wooten, and Roy "Futureman" Wooten -- can play. Often, it's enjoyable to just hear them jam, but the problem is often the songs lack any substance beneath the playing. Only a handful of cuts, such as the opener, "Throwdown at the Hoedown," really make a lasting impression, but the fact that Left of Cool sounds good as it is playing may be enough for many fans.

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