Rocket Science (Deluxe Edition)
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One would be forgiven for thinking that the reunion of the Flecktones' original lineup for Rocket Science was a nostalgic one, but that's not what happened. Howard Levy left the band back in 1992, leaving Béla Fleck, Victor Wooten, and Roy "Future Man" Wooten as a trio for six years before saxophonist Jeff Coffin came aboard in 1998. The Flecktones — in trio and quartet formations — continued to expand upon the various possibilities that established them early on, releasing recordings and touring the world over. Each member also developed a solo persona, performing and collaborating with other musicians, ultimately bringing his experiences back to the Flecktones. When Coffin left to join the Dave Matthews Band in 2008 in the wake of saxophonist LeRoi Moore's death, it opened the door for Levy to reconnect with his old bandmates. With Levy on harmonica and piano, it's as if he never left. Rather than try to re-create the band's old sound, the Flecktones push ever further into their own seamless, unclassifiable meld of jazz, progressive bluegrass, rock, classical, funk, and world music traditions on this delightful — and at times mind-blowing — record. Things kick off on a sparkling yet nearly pastoral note with "Gravity Lane," as Fleck's banjo, Levy's piano, and Victor Wooten's bass engage in some lovely interplay. When Future Man Wooten's drumitar kicks in on a series of skittering breaks, the entire playing level opens to the stratosphere. "Life in Eleven" begins as a harmonica jam before the banjo enters in breakdown style. Blues and bluegrass meet in the realm of syncopated funk. "Falani" features one of the finer Wooten bass solos on the record and allows Fleck and Levy to engage in sharp contrapuntal exchanges in the background. The rich Middle Eastern modes and melodies in "Sweet Pomegranates" is one of the most provocative and satisfying things on a disc full of more ideas than the listener can count. "Like Water" is the true pastoral jam on the disc, with the Flecktones at their most laid-back and grooving before carrying it all out on the careening, sprightly "Bottle Rocket." Rocket Science fires on all cylinders and comes off as a fresh and exciting reintroduction to a newly energized Flecktones.
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