CD UFO Tofu (CD 616725),
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Bla Fleck & the Flecktones
1. West Country, The
2. Sex in a Pan
3. Nemo's Dream
4. Bonnie and Slyde
6. UFO Tofu
7. Magic Fingers
8. True North
9. Life Without Elvis
11. Yee-Haw Factor, The
12. After the Storm
Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 45016
Bela Fleck & The Flecktones: Bela Fleck (banjo); Howard Levy (piano, synthesizer, harmonica, ocarina, pennywhistle); Victor Lemonte Wooten (bass); Future Man (drumitar).
Producers: Bela Fleck, Roy Wooten, Howard Levy, Victor Lemonte Wooten.
All songs written by Bela Fleck except "Sex In A Pan" (Victor Lemonte Wooten) and "Seresta" (Howard Levy/Manfredo Fest).
The Flecktones' third release, UFO TOFU, is a classy forward-thinking fusion outing that doesn't merely challenge listeners with technocratic bluster, but engages them with wit, intelligence, dynamic interplay...and a whole lotta heart. And it's a testament to Fleck's maturing talents as a composer and arranger that UFO TOFU doesn't merely project a hodge-podge of novelties and notions, but a distinctive group identity.
UFO TOFU is the culmination of three-plus years of unrelenting road work, during which time virtuosos Bela Fleck, Howard Levy, Victor Wooten and Roy "Futureman" Wooten had polished their act to a fine sheen, while expanding and refining their synthesis of jazz, country, funk and world music stylings.
But there's nothing self-conscious or contrived about their concord between urban black music and folkish, hillbilly elements, which is what makes the down-home funk of "Magic Fingers" and the dancing Afro-bluegrass of "The Yee-Haw Factor" such a delight. On the latter, they not only employ five-string banjo, harmonica and bass guitar as improvising instruments, but pennywhistle and drumitar as well. Fleck even manages to acknowledge the country-jazz innovations of Gary Burton's DUSTER and COUNTRY ROADS with the Monkish rhythm changes of "Life Without Elvis." "The West Country" echoes ancient folk elements as well as "The Star-Spangled Banner." The title tune is a vigorous romp on which multiple melodic lines mirror each other in a polytonal swelter of counterpoint and crossrhythms, as Fleck's banjo and Levy's keyboards hunt and peck around the Wooten Brothers' canny rhythm accents. And something as lovely as the closing "After The Storm" might be adult contemporary in lesser hands, but the sheer beauty of Levy's harmonica lead and Fleck's chording transcends cheap sentiment.
Though the Flecktones didn't change their formula with their third album, UFO Tofu, they did manage to craft one of their more consistent and impressive efforts. The band's fusion of jazz, bluegrass, and funk gels quite well on UFO Tofu -- not only does Bla Fleck turn in a rich, eclectic performance, but pianist Howard Levy's deft lines and inventive phrasing dominate the album. Occasionally, the material is lightweight, functioning only as vehicle for the group's solos. Then again, the whole point of Fleck's music is the solos, so that shouldn't upset his fans too much. Of course, it doesn't help him win new ones, either. ~ Thom Owens
Musician (12/92, p.98) - "...the Flecktones don't simply challenge listeners, they engage them....UFO TOFU is that rarest of birds, a classy fusion outing with brains, style, wit, and heart..."
Reflex (12/15/92, p.71) - "...finds Bela and band prospecting that vast middle ground between Earl Scruggs and Weather Report....deceptively down-home instrumentation makes the Flecktones' music absolutely unique..."
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Warner Bros. 45016
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