Oct 15, 2012
Bob Belden says of his latest release, Transparent Heart, “This record is not a jazz record, it's about my life in Manhattan“, and you know something is up.
The Grammy-winning saxophone player has been acclaimed as an arranger, composer, bandleader and producer. He has been intimately involved in the award-winning reissue project of the Miles Davis catalogue, writing illuminating liner notes. He even had a short stint as head of A&R for Blue Note Records (listen to the interview to hear his opinion of that job). Transparent Heart is the latest CD from Belden’s group Animation, which has been together with shifting personnel for a few decades now. So how is it not a “jazz record”?
Transparent Heart has been called by Belden “a musical tool to get people to think about social issues." Music must be returned to its place as a social engineer; provoking thought amongst society. This record is not about tunes, solos, and arrangements, it's a way of telling a story that has something to do with my life, OUR lives, and for anyone who has ever landed with excitement, wonder, fear, and hope on this tiny island off of the coast of the United States. It's not being a musician, but rather a citizen." It owes as much to electronica, the musical collages of Brian Eno, and the dense sounds of “Krautrock”, as it does to “jazz”. This is spooky, moving stuff.
I truly enjoyed our conversation, which covered an amazing amount of ground in a short period of time. Belden can often be harsh in his criticism of “the music business” and artists who allow themselves to be seduced by the promises of big labels. He is also a passionate advocate for artists’ rights and for the role technology will has in our present, and will continue to have in the future.
Click here to listen to Podcast 305, which includes the following musical selections:
Animation – “Vanishment” from Transparent Heart. Belden enlisted a young band for this project, musicians who might be more familiar with the sound he was seeking than veterans of the jazz scene. To back Belden’s soprano sax and flute, he brought in Pete Clagett (trumpet and effects); Jacob Smith (bass); Roberto Verastegui (keyboards and samplers) and Matt Young (drums).
Animation – “Terra Incognitot” from Transparent Heart. The title refers to a term used by Belden’s fellow New York residents to describe Central Park above 96th street. He seeks inspiration there at all hours of the evening, listening to the sounds of the city filtered through the park.
Animation – “Seven Towers” (edit) from Transparent Heart. Belden watched the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center from Chambers Street in lower Manhattan. This is his attempt to incorporate found sounds with musical memory – the track starts with the NORAD radio broadcast finding out a plane hit the North Tower; followed by the NYPD and NYFD responding.
Louiz Banks, Gary Bartz, Ron Carter, Ravi Chary, Jimmy Cobb, Rudresh Mahanthappa & Vikku Vinayakram – “All Blues” From Miles from India: A Celebration of the Music of Miles Davis. Released in April 2008, this CD sought to link Miles’ music with musicians from across the world, mostly from Asia. Here three veterans from Miles’ bands (Bartz, Carter, Cobb) team with sax star Rudresh Mahanthappa for a fascinating reworking of a classic tune.