Recorded while Bela Fleck was still playing with the band New Grass Revival and before he had assembled the Flecktones, 1987's PLACES supports the notion that Fleck is one of the finest and most diverse banjo players on the planet. Fleck's bluegrass roots (which would play an increasingly sublimated role in his fusion work of the '90s) still show strong on PLACES, as the ferocious hoe-down of songs like "Snakes Alive" attests.
But those who know Fleck's penchant for picking his way across genre distinctions need not fear, as he heads into jazz ("Perplexed"), rock ("Deviation"), classical ("Ladies and Gentlemen"), experimental noise ("Light Speed") and everything in between. Fleck is joined by a host of friends here, including progressive bluegrass luminaries Sam Bush (mandolin) and Jerry Douglas (dobro). Consequently, this eclectic set is a fun group session, in addition to being an early snapshot of Fleck's prodigious banjo skills.