Béla Fleck & The Flecktones

Released in 2008

DownBeat Four-Stars Review

YouTube: https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kwmxu3QlA_NKtaU611KStU7Jqreaf_UGQ

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/2W76N8D76BqfRlDjzQSOKL?si=C91xHzXvSxKxcQRHINrrmw


This album was on the bucket list for the Flecktones. We’d started doing Xmas medleys way back in 1989, on our first real tour, before New Grass Revival even disbanded. We thought that making a holiday recording could be a very creative endeavor, and didn’t have to be smarmy, tacky or cheap. It was pretty weird practicing these songs at sound checks in the heat of July. Our road crew nearly mutinied while we attempted to learn to play our Christmas medley, in which we experimented with the idea of playing multiple tunes simultaneously as counterpoint. It took a lot of time and repetition to figure out how to make them all work together – which just sounded to the crew like we were just playing these tunes over and over and over and over. In the end we figured out how to lay 5 or 6 of these tunes on top of each other, which we were excited about. The crew was excited when we stopped. I found a lovely Bach Christmas Cantata, which gave us the excuse to invite Edgar to play one of the lines with us, and play on another couple of tunes as well. Around this time we were contacted by a band of Tuvan ThroatSingers, The Alash Group. They were all highly influenced by our friend Kongar-ol Ondar, who appeared on Live at the Quick and Outbound. They were coming through Nashville and wanted to meet the Flecktones, as they were big fans of Live at the Quick DVD. After listening to their recording, and knowing how much the guys were into throat singing (Jeff, Futch and Vic had all learned the rudiments and could even do it, somewhat) I suggested that we add them in, as an unusual element for our holiday album. The other odd duck guest was Andy Statman, one of the giants of klezmer music and modern bluegrass. I knew him from when he played a lot with my teacher Tony Trischka, and I was looking for ways to play with this musical iconoclast. So he played mandolin and clarinet on a couple of tunes as well. A piece on the album that we worked very hard on was The 12 days of Christmas. We came up with the idea of playing in all 12 keys and 12 time signatures. This was fairly tough to figure out how to do, but eventually the piece surrendered to us and it really came together well. We’ve been told that this is a Christmas album for people that hate Christmas albums.

Track Listing:

1. Jingle Bells 03:30

2. Silent Night 04:41

3. Sleigh Ride (Leroy Anderson / Mitchell Parish) 03:29

4. The Christmas Song (Mel Tormé) 03:01

5. The Twelve Days of Christmas 05:19

6. J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratio: Ich Will Nur Zu Ehren Leben [BVW 248: #41 04:26

7. Christmas Time Is Here (Vince Guaraldi / Lee Mendelson) 02:21

8. Linus and Lucy (Vince Guaraldi) 02:54

9. Jingle Bells (Reprise) 03:13

10. The Hanukkah Waltz 02:34

11. Danse of the Sugar Plum Fairies 03:29

12. What Child Is This/Dyngyldai 05:08

13. O Come All Ye Faithful 02:12

14. Medley: We Wish You a Merry Christmas/It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like (Johnny Marks) 05:38

15. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Ralph Blane / Hugh Martin) 05:48

16. River (Joni Mitchell) 03:46


Béla Fleck: banjo, electric banjo, piano

Jeff Coffin: flute, saxophone, bass clarinet

Victor Wooten: bass

FutureMan: percussion, synthesizer

Edgar Meyer: double bass

Andy Statman: clarinet, mandolin

And The Alash Ensemble: throat singing (Ayan Ool Sam: doshpuluur, vocals; Ayan Shirizhik: kengirge; Bady Dorzhu Ondar: igil; Mai Ool Sedip: byzaanchi)

Recorded at Sanctuary Studios and Sound Emporium, Nashville, TN

Produced by Béla Fleck

Recorded and Mixed by Richard Battaglia and Robert Battaglia

Mastered by Richard Dodd

Engineer: Patrick Grenado

Photography: Señor McGuire


Not inclined to play it safe, the Fleck-tones run wild with abundant technique and musical imagination on their first holiday album. As if this gang wasn´t enough to command our attention, Tuvan throat singers show up in Santa suits and merrily traumatize us by interpreting “Jingle Bells” and “What Child Is This/Dyngyldai.” Though far more staid, guest Edgar Meyer on double bass also helps out decorating the Fleck tree, and Andy Statman supplies serpentine clarinet to “The Hanukkah Waltz.” Perfect music for a holiday feast with Dali, Fellini, Moondog, Earl Scruggs and Naftule Brandwein all seated around the three-legged dining table.

Frank-John Hadley (DownBeat)