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Bob Belden: Black Dahlia

Craig Jolley By

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Black Dahlia comes off better felt than listened to. In the liner notes Bob Belden describes his programmatic suite as a portrait of a mysterious, romantic loner who lived out her brief life through movies in post-WWII Hollywood. He borrows "moody" techniques from 1940's film score writers and gives them a jazzy spin.

Miles Davis and Gil Evans serve as the primary jazz inspirations. The most prominent soloist, trumpeter Tim Hagans, evokes Miles' stark, blue sound with and without harmon mute. He recalls Miles' open-ended "Solea" solo on "City of Angels." The rhythm section occasionally takes its feel from Miles' 1960's band (Hancock-Carter-Williams). For example the drum motif in "Dreamworld" is borrowed from Tony Williams ("In a Silent Way"). The orchestral sonority often derives from Evans' "Sketches of Spain" charts, and lush strings otherwise add to the period nostalgia. The most extroverted piece, "The Edge of Forever," evokes a late-40's big band feel complete with Latin jazz trappings.

Besides Hagans a variety of soloists are liberally featured, but they mainly stay in place, reinforcing moods by noodling on Belden's shadowy themes before fading away. Belden briefly solos on "Dreamworld" with a mid-50's Coltrane (Miles Davis quintet) sound but without Coltrane's urgency. The high point is the intuitive tenor-cello (Lovano-Friedlander) duet on "Danza d' Amore." Herwig promisingly launches his "The Edge of Forever" statement with the "Resolution" motif from Coltrane's A Love Supreme, but like most other soloists he remains within the lines.


Title: Black Dahlia | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Atlantic Jazz


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