3

Animation: Transparent Heart

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

Sign in to view read count
Bob Belden is a sort of jazz renaissance man. He's worn many hats in his long career: producer, arranger, composer and reeds player, a combination of roles for which there are few parallels in the business.

Transparent Heart highlights Belden the bandleader, the third release by his group, Animation. This is an all-new lineup for the group, constituted of students and recent grads from the highly reputed jazz program at the University of North Texas, where Belden graduated many years before.

The music made by this fine group sounds strongly inspired by early '70s electric jazz of trumpeter Miles Davis and keyboardist Herbie Hancock—no accident, given that Belden has produced several reissues of key records by these fusion pioneers. The nervous, almost jittery rhythm of "Urbanoia" and "Occupy!" echo the beats featured on Davis's On the Corner (Columbia, 1972). The electric keyboard textures, particularly Roberto Verastegui's Fender Rhodes. likewise hearken back to that rich musical vein. And when trumpeter Pete Clagett—especially strong throughout, undaunted by implicitly playing the role of Miles Davis—delivers the moody trumpet line at the end of "Seven Towers" an octave higher than when it was first stated, he recalls the muscular virtuosity of Davis on Black Beauty (Columbia, 1973).

Animation's performances are marathon-length, and do not always sustain interest (in both respects, not unlike the Davis groups or Hancock's Mwandishi group). But Belden and his young new band mates are generally excellent.

There is furthermore another dimension to Transparent Heart beyond its intelligent brushing-off of the group's early 1970s models. The record tells a sophisticated story, a set of overlapping stories in which New York City is the chief protagonist. On one level, it's the story of the young Belden coming to the city years ago to join Woody Herman's band, mystified and perhaps frightened by the megalopolis. The story moves from the individual to the social, weaving through the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the effects of the subsequent economic downturn as experienced by jazz musicians, and the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Belden's remarks about the album help flesh out the details of the narrative, but it is remarkable how coherent and evocative the aural experience alone is in conveying the tale. In truth, Belden's vision is like a novel—Dickens's London or Balzac's Paris being literary examples of cities playing a starring role.

And this novel-like (or cinematic) narrative coherence is also a feature of the two excellent Miles Davis tributes that Belden produced—Miles from India (Columbia, 2008) and Miles Español: New Sketches of Spain (Columbia, 2011)). This capacity for writing novels with jazz may be the most unusual thing about Belden.

Track Listing: Terra Incognito; Urbanoia; Cry in the Wind; Transparent Heart; Seven Towers; Provocatism; Vanishment; Occupy!.

Personnel: Bob Belden: saxophone, flute; Peter Clagett: trumpet and effects; Jacob Smith: bass; Roberto Verastegui: keyboards and samplers; Matt Young: drums.

Title: Transparent Heart | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: RareNoiseRecords


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read The Study of Touch CD/LP/Track Review The Study of Touch
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 20, 2017
Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Gledalec CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Flux Reflux CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Christmas With Champian CD/LP/Track Review Christmas With Champian
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "Up and Coming" CD/LP/Track Review Up and Coming
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: January 29, 2017
Read "Gonimoblast Live" CD/LP/Track Review Gonimoblast Live
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 25, 2017
Read "Promethean" CD/LP/Track Review Promethean
by David A. Orthmann
Published: July 3, 2017
Read "Genesis, Mystery And Magic" CD/LP/Track Review Genesis, Mystery And Magic
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 6, 2017
Read "Groovin’ Hard - Live at the Penthouse 1964 - 1968" CD/LP/Track Review Groovin’ Hard - Live at the Penthouse 1964 - 1968
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 11, 2017
Read "New Life" CD/LP/Track Review New Life
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 25, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.