Belden comes full circle with a new lineup of talent from his alma mater the University of North Texas. 23 year old keyboardist Roberto Verastegui, 24 year old bassist Jacob Smith, 29 year old trumpeter Pete Clagett and finally 20 year old drummer Matt Young make up this intriguing quintet with a release that seems to linger in a more cerebral framework than his 2010 debut Asiento. A dark all most foreboding narrative takes on 9/11 and then moves to the mass exodus of artists that while working in New York City can no longer afford to live there and even a look at the class warfare that made up Occupy Wall Street which based on current events, empty camp grounds and the sounds of crickets chirping stiffed faster than "Hope and Change."
Clearly this is not a jazz record, Belden states this in his press release however Belden does touch on the major issues of the day and in a musical fashion for and with dramatic effect that seems to run parallel with the evocative cover art. The release opens with the dark ambient quality that borders on the melancholy but with a controlled sonic fury that would seem to fit Manhattan perfectly. Drumming phenom Matt Young drives this musical train along with the at times muted trumpet of Pete Clagett. Not a jazz record? What is jazz? If we consider "improvisational music" as the standard by which jazz is qualified than jazz could fit but with a textured ambient rock edge. Much like the Big Apple, occasionally a little rough around the edges but an epicenter of excitement none the less. "Seven Towers" is Belden's reaction to the terror attacks on 9/11. The inclusion of the NORAD radio broadcasts is haunting. This lost moment in time will stay with you. While other artists have released highly polarizing recordings that are steeped in social commentary there is a unique objectivity in this most creative of works where realism is combined with emotional minimalism with surprising effect. The controlled sonic fury of "Occupy" is not without its shinning moments.
While I am not one to welcome or normally go anywhere near a "jazz" recording that revolves around social issues as I like my demons to be kept in lock down and I sincerely believe that if presented in an irresponsible fashion the social commentary can over ride and often ruin well executed music, Transparent Heart is one of the most captivating recording I have heard in years. The ability to transform human emotions on such highly charged topics through the primary use of instrumentation alone is a monumental feat. According to Belden this recording is not about being a musician, but rather a citizen. Every fiber of my being told me I would not like this recording yet it is a work of highly evolved art that is virtually impossible to turn away from.
Tracks: Terra Incognito; Urbanoia; Cry In The Wind; Transparent Heart; Seven Towers; Provocatism; Vanishment; Occupy.
Personnel: Bob Belden: sax/flute; Peter Clagett: trumpet and effects; Jacob Smith: bass; Roberto Verastegui: keyboards and samplers; Matt Young: drums.