Bela Fleck makes what Mumford & Sons do to the banjo sound criminal. The 54-year-old doesn’t just play the instrument for old-timey flair; he’s always pushing it in new directions and trying new genres. Get acquainted with the plucky master ahead of his show with The Marcus Roberts Trio at Strathmore on Friday.
It’s best to start with his main gig, The Flecktones. The quartet — bass man Victor Wooten, percussionist Future Man and harmonica player Howard Levy — are all virtuosos who manage to fuse together multiple genres into something unique.
Fleck visited Africa — the ancestral home of the banjo — and came back with a documentary, “Throw Down Your Heart,” and an album of the same name. Fleck made field recordings of the countless African musicians he met, integrating his instrument with traditionally African sounds.
On 1998’s “Perpetual Motion,” Fleck went classical, covering works by Bach, Chopin, Brahms and Beethoven.
The Marcus Roberts Trio
His most recent collaboration, with The Marcus Roberts Trio, resulted in the 2012 jazz album “Across the Imaginary Divide,” which proves that even the banjo can swing.Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda; Fri., 8 p.m., $28-$58; 301-581-5100. (Grosvenor-Strathmore)