Husband and wife banjoists Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn have been playing together since they first met, but the birth of their son Juno in 2013 urged them to make touring a family affair, and thus, a duo that had only performed at family parties and on the odd radio show became an on-the-road tour de force.
The banjo conjures images of old-timey, traditional, Appalachian music, and Fleck and Washburn do indeed indulge in these musical pastimes. But at the heart of the duo’s magic lies an unflagging desire to push the envelope, even in a duo setting devoid of rhythm section. So aspects of funk, soul, R&B, jazz, gospel, African and classical stylings are siphoned through the pair’s instrumental virtuosity, and to Fleck’s penchant for seriously swinging Be Bop lines is added Washburn’s claw-hammer banjo style and sublime songwriting skills.
The result is an often complex, always challenging music that somehow still smacks of the comforts of home and hearth.
Fleck & Washburn arrive as part of the Great Performers Series for a show at 8 p.m. Feb. 27 at Rockwell Hall Performing Arts Center at SUNY Buffalo State (1300 Elmwood Ave.). Tickets are $40/$45 (box office, buffalostatepac.org).