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Get Flecked 

Béla is back with an electric banjo on his knee.

You can tell a lot about musical artists by the company they keep. Béla Fleck and The Flecktones, for instance, have collaborated with a wide variety of musicians during the jazz-bluegrass-funk-jam band's 15 or so years in existence.

Electric, eclectic banjo player Fleck and company will return to Tucson for a concert Tuesday night at the Rialto Theatre. The group is touring to promote its latest release, the triple-CD set Little Worlds.

And the guest stars on the new recording run the gamut from jazz artists such as Bobby McFerrin and Branford Marsalis, though bluegrass aces like Nickel Creek, Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas, to the amazing blues prodigy Derek Trucks, also a member of the Allman Brothers Band.

In addition, Little Worlds also features unexpected cameos by the superstar Irish band The Chieftains, Tuvan throat singer Congar Ol Ondar, theremin player Pamelia Kurstin and Hawaiian ukelele player Jake Shimabukuro.

The new collection also provides a travelogue through the styles that the Flecktones have incorporated over the years--from the classic Flight of the Cosmic Hippo jam-band attack to their world-music excursions on Outbound. It also includes a hip-hop "Ballad of Jed Clampett," Irish and Spanish influences and music deriving from the worlds of rock, pop, R&B, funk, supper-club jazz, salsa, reggae, Cajun, African, Asian, ambient and "just plain weird" other-worldly sounds.

Through it all, Fleck is ably and sympathetically supported by the 'tones: bassist Victor Wooten, electronic drummer Roy "Future Man" Wooten and saxophonist Jeff Coffin.

There are always new developments in the Flecktones' world, most recently a spate of babies born to some of the band's members' wives. But also, Fleck recently played for the 22nd time at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the band has been touring in the Great White North (while summer months allowed), and its tune "Turtle Rock" has been featured in the promotional video for the Athena Mars Exploration Rovers, the landing for which will take place in 2004.

And if you miss the Flecktones this week in Tucson, or just can't get enough of them, the group now has two live DVDs out. Naturally, they are available at the band's official Web site, www.flecktones.com.

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