Yoshi's in Oakland
Fleck performs with Toumani Diabate on Thursday, March 19, through Saturday, March 22. $5-$35, showtimes vary; 510-238-9200 or www.yoshis.com.
A musician who devotes an entire career to the banjo is a bit like a chef choosing to serve nothing but anchovies. Both instrument and ingredient are generally considered acquired tastes, they're full of wonderful surprises for the open-minded, and they offer little possibility of long-term mainstream acceptance. Banjoist Béla Fleck is the exception that proves the rule. His engaging music has garnered considerable critical acclaim and a large popular following that bridges the gap faced by most marginalized genre musicians. Hell, he's even popular with the beer pong crowd, thanks to occasional collaborations with Dave Matthews Band. His latest, Throw Down Your Heart, takes him to Africa, where he explores the origins of his favorite instrument.