Album #48: Béla Fleck and the Flecktones (1990)
Once, driving home one night in the late ’80s, I took a wrong exit. It was in that awkward tangle of concrete known as the Eisenhower Interchange (if you’re from Harrisburg, you know exactly what I mean), and it was impossible to simply get right back on the beltway. Rather than curse the fates or take a circuitous route through town, I decided to stop for a beer at a good bar I knew was just off the exit — the G-Man. Immediately upon walking in, I ran into an old high school buddy I hadn’t seen in years, sitting on a stool right in front of the entrance. It was Carl “Chick” DeFebo. Chick had just moved back to town after — finally — graduating from college … and he was looking for a job. Curiously enough, the paper I worked for was looking for a new editor, and I encouraged him to apply.
In short order, Chick and I were working together at the CPBJ. Over the next couple of years we had some great adventures.
Carl’s dad had been our Middle School Principal, and both were jazz musicians. (His father, in fact, after retiring from teaching, would go on to buy a townie bar a couple of small towns over and turn it into a local jazz club. Whenever one of his former students came into the place for the first time, the first drink was on the house. Now that’s an awesome educator!) We brought a lot of tapes into work to listen to, and Chick introduced us to groups I might have missed — most especially Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. This band of jazz/fusion/bluegrass/funk musician’s musicians has since become a darling of the NPR crowd, but they were a revelation when they first came out and we ran that album into the ground. The boom box we had in the office would flip a cassette automatically at the end, and if we weren’t careful you’d find yourself listening to a tape a half dozen times.
I don’t know why I took the wrong exit that night, and wonder how different things might have been if I had been paying closer attention. It’s possible I would have run into Chick soon enough, but the timing of everything couldn’t have been more perfect. Kismet anyone?
Want to know what you missed? — The Album Countdown so far