Bela Fleck and the Flecktones is an American jazz and bluegrass band consisting of members Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, Jeff Coffin, and Future Man.
The founder of the Flecktones, Bela Fleck, first played with the New Grass Revival Band, which led to his 1988 appearance on PBS’ Lonesome Pines Special. Fleck put together a group of musicians to play on the show, and after that performance decided to keep the group together. Fleck began to develop more complex compositions which blended jazz and bluegrass. The group was a motley crew of characters, from Victor Wooten’s funky jazz bass solos to Future Man’s theatrical habit of dressing as a pirate on stage and playing the odd-looking drumitar. From the beginning, the Flecktones’ music never fit into just one category. They performed at jazz festivals with Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, and the Christian a capella group Take 6, and even attracted the attention of Deadheads.
The band released their self-titled debut album in 1989, which received a Grammy nod for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, as did their second album, Flight of the Cosmic Hippo (1991). The follow-up in 1992, UFO TOFU, was equally quirky and well received, featuring Fleck playing banjo with a slide, an idea offered by slide guitarist Bonnie Raitt.
After the depature of Howard Levy from the band in 1992, The Flecktones recorded their fourth album, Three Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which explored the band’s new identity and sound without the contributions of Levy. Live Art followed that album in 1996, and it snagged the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for “Sinister Minister.” In 1997, the band once again became a quartet with the addition of saxophonist Jeff Coffin. That year, the Flecktones opened for the Dave Matthews Band, and played with Phish on their tour in Europe.
Left of Cool (1998), marked a shift from previous albums in that it incorporated sounds which could not be duplicated on live instruments. Their seventh album, Outbound (2000), won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, and featured guests like Jon Anderson of Yes, Shawn Colvin, and John Medeski. The Flecktones’ most recent studio album is 2006’s The Hidden Land, which took the band back to its roots as a quartet. The band still tours often and is regularly booked for corporate entertainment events and private parties.