Béla Fleck wasn't done after his world music extravaganza Throw Down Your Heart, Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3: The Africa Sessions. Those groundbreaking explorations led to the forming of this group and yet another collaboration, The Melody of Rhythm: Triple Concerto & Music for Trio, which teams him with cellist/bassist Edgar Meyer and the mighty Indian percussionist Zakir Hussain. The trio collaborates here with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra directed by maestro Leonard Slatkin. Fleck and Meyer had been playing together on and off for 26 years at the time of this recording, and had previously composed a double concerto for banjo and cello for the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in 2004. They were commissioned by the same orchestra to create a triple concerto in 2006. They decided on Hussain as a collaborator for this set, and performed "The Melody of Rhythm" with the NSO conducted by Slatkin. This is the debut recording of the work and it is augmented by other incidental music either inspired by the original piece or derived directly from it. The DSO, Slatkin's new home, recorded it in 2009. As for the music? What's not to like? Its three movements over 28 minutes are a spacious, wide-ranging, beautifully paced concerto with the trio interacting on its own quite intently and with the DSO not as individual instrumentalists, but as a group in dialogue with the orchestra. Jazz, Indian folk forms, classical music, Appalachian folk, progressive instrumental music, and something utterly new emerge for the listener. "The Melody of Rhythm" is preceded by three compositions. "Babar," which opens the set, is a wandering Eastern European folk song meeting near Asian folk forms. "Out of the Blue" is a work that combines elements of Gypsy swing, Indian classical music, and mountain blues. There are three pieces that follow the concerto as well; most notable among them is the haunting closer, "Then Again," with its high-neck modal explorations by Fleck answered contrapuntally by Meyer and covered in differing textures and tempos by Hussain. This CD is a stellar buy, because it showcases two entirely different faces of this group: one that plays a scripted work in the context of interacting with a much larger ensemble, and as what can only be called a new kind of improvising jazz trio that can work from a set composition and travel far and wide in sound, texture, and color. Bravo.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
|The Melody of Rhythm, for banjo, tabla & double bass|