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Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Zakir Hussain: Tiny Desk Concert

"Beyond category." That's what Duke Ellington used to call musicians who were simply the best at what they do. And that's certainly the case for Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain. Individually, they're world-class masters of the banjo, the bass fiddle and the tabla, respectively. They conquered mere technical prowess long ago.

All three now are at a place where music truly becomes so intuitive that a simple rehearsal — as we got to see before this Tiny Desk Concert in the offices of NPR Music — is an exercise in wordless communication. Just before we rolled tape, the trio worked on a section of one of the songs that involved some unison playing, and I was caught off guard, thinking they didn't really nail it when they tried it three times in a row. Then, when it came time to perform for an audience, they, of course, performed it flawlessly.

Ellington had no idea that his words would eventually be applied to a banjo player, a bass fiddle player and an South Asian percussionist. But sit back and enjoy these two pieces from The Melody of Rhythm, and you'll see how right Ellington was.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.