It takes a special piece of music to appear three times on a single album without growing tiresome. 

George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” is that piece of music and Béla Fleck is the musician who makes it work on the LP of the same name. 

Released to mark the 100th anniversary of the piece’s Feb. 12, 1924, premiere, Rhapsody in Blue features bluegrass, classical and blues interpretations of the composition alongside the never-recorded, recently discovered “Unidentified Piece for Banjo” and the better-known “Rialto Ripples.” These solo-banjo pieces are lovely, but it’s the collaborative title track(s) – at 12, 19 and five minutes, respectively – that do the selling. 

Recorded with My Bluegrass Heart, “Rhapsody in Blue(grass)” finds Fleck; fiddler Michael Cleveland; mandolinist Sierra Hull and her Dobro-playing husband Justin Moses; bassist Mark Schatz; and guitarist Bryan Sutton taking Gershwin’s perennial piece for a walk in the Appalachians while preserving its inherent, urbane sophistication. 

With its title unchanged and Fleck’s banjo replacing piano, “Rhapsody” is performed by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Eric Jacobson, aka Mr. Aoife O’Donovan. And the daring bit of cross-pollination bears serious aural fruit and seems less-crazy with the uncovering of “Unidentified Piece for Banjo” in the Library of Congress.  

“Rhapsody in Blue(s)” is truncated as Fleck, Sam Bush, Dobro master Jerry Douglas and busy-as-a-bee bassist Victor Wooten graft elements of “Mannish Boy” into the “Rhapsody.” It’s respectful to Gershwin’s blueprint while – like its album-mates – adding layers to the already-intricately layered piece.