Bob Belden has just played his first gig in London since 1980 last night performing a special surround sound set before following up this return to the capital with a club date at the Vortex tomorrow night.
The flautist/saxophonist and record producer last appeared here with Woody Herman, just two years after Belden graduated from the University of North Texas.
In recent years Belden has been a hugely significant Miles Davis reissue producer, and his own records as a leader have pushed forward a consolidated reading of jazz noir, particularly his 2001 album Black Dahlia.
With Animation made up of Belden, opening up on flute before switching to saxophone later, along with the blindingly propulsive electric bassist Jacob Smith; winningly brittle trumpeter Peter Clagett; Nord keyboardist Roberto Verastegui channelling the Bitches Brew era; and the Zach Danziger-like drumming of Matt Young, he performed a special set in Ambisonic surround sound with live video projections at the Tabernacle in west London.
The project is a collaboration with sound architect Serafino Di Rosario who was also on stage last night crouched behind a MacBook.
Di Rosario explained in a short talk to the audience how the technology is like the grandson of Dolby 5.1, and demonstrated echo delays and volume flexibility with sounds unexpectedly “living” in the room in a more organic way, a sense of being there.
With the audience sitting in the centre surrounded by speakers the band played a wide range of Belden material, and also debuted songs from new album Transparent Heart for RareNoise.
The standout new song of the evening was ‘Occupy’, Belden’s tribute to the protest movement that sprang up in New York’s Zuccotti Park last September and fanned out all around the world.
With projected images that showed solarised marching bands and almost robotic city figures ‘fried’ in the psychedelic graphic effects, as well as Antony Gormley-like lonely figures on high rise buildings, the performance was also in a way a homage and wake-up call to Manhattan, “an island off the coast of America”, as Belden told the audience.
Earlier in his dressing room Belden spoke of his admiration for Blue Note producers such as Duke Pearson, and explained how Michael Cuscuna got him involved in working on detailed reissue projects in the first place.
Other projects have seen Belden make a video documentary more recently with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. With the Herbster Belden also arranged songs on Hancock’s innovative 1990s album A New Standard, an album way ahead of its time.
Belden’s new album was recorded in Bill Laswell’s studio in New Jersey. Plans are afoot to bring the Animation surround sound show back to London in the autumn as well as stage it in New York. Stephen Graham
Above: Mr B
For tickets to the Vortex show tomorrow, go to www.vortexjazz.co.uk
Pentangle’s ‘Light Flight (Theme From Take Three Girls)’ is just one of the rarities included on a new double CD compilation, TV Sound and Image: British Television, Film and Library Composers 1956-80 featuring hard-to-find TV, film and library music. Curious then given the dates in the title that the strap line on the cover (below), has different dates.
Rocksteady is a style of reggae I’ve often been drawn to, with Toots and the Maytals and Augustus Pablo among my heroes. I’ve been listening to some Bitty McLean as well recently who I’m less familiar with, and he’s performing with the Jamaican Legends band soon, alongside Ernest Ranglin, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, and Monty Alexander appearing on 29 July as part of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence at London’s IndigO2 in Greenwich. He’s also playing in the more intimate surroundings of the Jazz Cafe in Camden two days later.
The O2 is playing host to the Jamaica 50 Festival for 12 days of gigs with some of the greatest names in reggae and Jamaican music taking part including Jimmy Cliff,Yellowman, U-Roy, Mighty Diamonds, Marcia Griffiths, Freddie McGregor, Maxi Priest, Damian Marley, Derrick Morgan, and Toots and the Maytals all to appear.
Born in Birmingham on 8 August 1972 McLean had hits in the early 1990s with Fats Domino’s ‘It Keeps Rainin’ (Tears from My Eyes)’ a big breakthrough, and he also worked with UB40 as an engineer/producer as well as singing with the band. His albums include On Bond Street, and Movin’ On, with Sly and Robbie, recorded in Jamaica, and he continues a gigging association with the great Jamaican rhythm team to this day. With the “Riddim Twins" McLean has also recorded a follow up to Movin’ On to be released (although this is still unconfirmed) in the autumn.
Pictured above: Bitty McLean