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Animation: Asiento

C. Michael Bailey By

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Jam bands Phish and Gov't Mule have been making a cottage industry of covering a famous LP for their respective Halloween concerts (the bands' "costumes," so to speak). In 2010, we were treated to Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus (Warner Brothers, 1978) and The Who's Who's Next (MCA, 1975), respectively.

It is not unheard of for jazz musicians to reimagine iconic recordings of the past. Phil Woods tipped his hat to Art Pepper + Eleven (Contemporary, 1959), with his Groovin' to Marty Paich (Jazzed Media, 2005); and Bill Cunliffe paid homage to Oliver Nelson with The Blues and the Abstract Truth, Take 2 (Resonance Records, 2008). Most recently Delfeayo Marsalis reimagined Duke Ellington's Such Sweet Thunder (Columbia, 1957) on Sweet Thunder (Troubadour Jazz, 2010).

Bob Belden and Tim Hagans take on the substantial monument of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970) under the collective banner of Animation in Asiento. The set was recorded live in 2006, as part of the Reissue: Classic Recordings Live series, at New York City's Merkin Hall. Rather than present note perfect fidelity to the original release, this is very much a reimagining of the classic recording by Belden and Hagans—who, with keyboardist Scott Kinsey, bassist Matthew Garrison, drummer Guy Lieata and turntablist DJ Logic, blow off all of the duct-work, delivering a stunning work of art, distilled to its essence and presented in living aural color.

It is a big order to pay a proper tribute to such an important and iconoclastic recording, but Hagans, Belden and company do exactly that. Of critical importance in these interpretations are the basic rhythm section of Garrison and Lieata. They provide the track upon which this high-speed train travels. Garrison's hyper-burping electric bass ripples over the faster lines laid down by Lieata. When Garrison solos, as on "Pharaoh's Dance" and the title piece, he approaches his task angularly, revealing the deeply hidden rhythms of the pieces. Lieata is a percussive sorcerer, providing sounds and times that are both elastic and appropriate.

Hagans, more than any other trumpeter, was made for this recording. He draws all of the voodoo, gris-gris and mojo out of the music, liberally using an echoplex to bend his thoughts to the will of the music. Belden, playing soprano saxophone, shows why his Grammy-winning Black Dahlia (Blue Note, 2001) was so popular.

Asiento is superb in every way, satisfying a broad range of even the stubbornest jazz Jones.

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