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Published: 2004/06/14
by Ben Kessler

B Fleck and Edgar Meyer, Herbst Theatre, San Francisco- 5/30

B Fleck and Edgar Meyer first released the fruits of their musical relationship in 1989 via their group's, Strength in Numbers, first and only release entitled The Telluride Sessions. The group was a who’s who of bluegrass music of the time, and if you were to put together a bluegrass supergroup today, you would not make any changes. Alongside Fl and Meyer were Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, and Mark O’ Connor. All of these artists were in tune to the progressive bluegrass idea that engaged Fleck and Meyer at the time. What makes B and Edgar such a perfect pair is not simply the fact that they were making similar music or even found themselves making music together in Strength In Numbers, but rather how they found each other to record their 2004 release, Music for Two. The road that each took was so similar that they found one another on the separate paths that they had created; they reunited at times along the way because it made too much sense not to do so. Neither would want to be put in a category, but when they first began playing together they were both making bluegrass music, and each delved in classical, jazz, and an assortment of world music on their own terms.

The relationship that the two have on stage goes beyond a musical connection, as a true friendship is visible. In addition, when you put two virtuosos on stage together, there is always the possibility that you will only be left with musicians looking to flex their muscles. This is not the case for these two, as both were satisfied playing very simple backup patterns for the other. One would build the bridge but why walk across such a structure built by either the banjo (Fleck) or the bass or piano (Meyer) when one can dance, and that is exactly what they both did. Fingers were fluttering as all parts of all instruments were covered; no fret or key was left unplayed.

The set was as diverse as both musicians careers had been, from Bach to Miles Davis. In addition, at one point Fleck reached to his right and took out a distinctly different looking banjo: this one with a longer neck which he explained belonged to the late banjo player, John Hartford. B then treated the crowd to a medley of Hartford’s best. Not only was it technically impressive, but moving for the bluegrass fans in the audience.

Each brought the other closer to his style, whether it was the orchestrated "Greenslime" belonging to Meyer or "Blue Spruce" coming straight from the Flecktones part of B’s brain. Fleck later kept the light feel going as he does in all of his projects by bringing Meyer along into a highly creative version of "Arkansas Traveler." With the addition of the songs that the two wrote together for Music for Two, the performance only affirmed that the command and communication they share often seems akin to what the ordinary person has between his or her own left and right hand.

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