Jazz breaking news: Bob Belden’s Animation Dive Into The Dark Side Of Manhattan
Wednesday, 04 July 2012 10:18
Saxophonist, composer and producer Bob Belden – who has worked extensively on the Miles Davis and Blue Note reissues series – landed in London last night for the first of two gigs showcasing tunes from his powerful new album Transparent Heart on Rare Noise Records, debuting not just new music but a cutting edge surround sound speaker system and eye-popping visuals. Performing to a select crowd at Notting Hill’s Tabernacle, Belden explained this music had been inspired by the post-9/11 era in New York and, as a New York native of some 30 years, he described how the threat of terrorism and its inherently random nature had replaced the usual urban menace of muggings and robbery. The main issue now is an increased sense of collective paranoia that pervades everyday Manhattan life.
Appropriately then Belden and his crack troupe of young instrumental pugilists – bassist Jacob Smith, trumpeter Peter Clagett, keyboardist Roberto Verastegui and drummer Matt Young – set about creating a dense, multi-layered wall of sound that drew heavily on the terse, electrified jazz of Miles Davis’ 1975 album Agharta and its sister recording, Pangaea, giving the sound palette a 21st century twist. Bobbing bass lines rippled at the music’s core with ever-shifting beats and keyboard stabs jostling for attention. Yet it was Belden’s soprano sax and Clagett’s trumpet that provided the anxious wails of unrest on top, both horn players utilising effects to pile up scalier runs into cascades of notes, all briefly interlocking via delays and echoes producing apt dissonances and sharply clashing harmonies. And with Belden’s overtly political narrative – via song titles such as ‘Urbanoia’, ‘Occupy’ and the album title track ‘Transparent Heart’ (which he says pierces the façade of New York’s countless glass buildings) – this was a prime example of jazz musicians stretching beyond the usual acoustic limitations of their instruments to create a disturbing yet compelling new sound world.
Coupled to Ambisonic’s pioneering live surround sound set up that was manipulated live by its creator Serafino DiRosario, and with dazzling visuals by Brandy Alexander of the bustle and blur of New York city streets, the gig was also a bespoke listening experience. With listeners increasingly discerning tastes in high quality audio on both vinyl, CD and downloads reaching a new peak, it was perhaps a taste of things to come in the live jazz arena as the sound of Belden’s sax, keyboards or spoken word samples were pinged around the eight specially positioned speakers that surrounded the audience. For all the disturbing, dystopian sounds and messages the immersive audiovisuals only served to heighten the intense feelings at the heart of Belden’s visionary urban jazz aesthetic.
Animation play the Vortex in Dalston on Thursday 5 July, Transparent Heart is released in September.