Sweet...Did I mention Belled has bassist for the Rippingtons on his musical resume?
The conceptual idea behind this release is the relationship between man and machine. This relationship transfers over to contemporary jazz in a somewhat revolutionary if not long needed approach to fuse the computer into the traditional non-electronic musical style of jazz. The results are astounding!
Belled sidesteps the old adage of "fix it in the mix" to instead all most celebrate the subtle imperfections bound to crop up in perhaps the most organic contemporary release available this year. Four songs are done without the aid of a click track, the six that did evolve from the grid are layered in texture and done with a vibrant appeal. Some of Belled's guest artists include Jeff Kashiwa (Rippingtons), Bill Heller, and Dave Karasony (also boast Rippingtons credentials). Rico Belled does more than a riff on the Rippingtons, instead we have a release that challenges some of the more stereotypical notions of what contemporary jazz is now and where it should be headed in the future. The use of the computer is a stroke of genius, instead of sanitizing the release for your protection we find Belled building walls of sound i.e. Phil Spector gone jazz! Within the texture we find odd meter jazz, r&b, smooth jazz and fusion back when real men (and women) played real instruments. An absolutely spot on amalgam of the old and new or as I prefer to say, old school becoming new cool!
Ten originals on a release of as many tracks is for some tap dancing in a musical minefield. This is a well thought out and highly conceptualized release with an ebb and flow that is pure flavor. "Chester" kicks the party off with a percussive flair and an infectious groove that you hear with your hips and feel with your feet. A somewhat subtle Latin vibe adds to a smoldering undercurrent. The horn section is killing it old school while Katisse Buckingham adds a nice lyrically drive flute solo opposite his own sax solo. Funkalicious! "Flexibility" dials it down to a groove oriented chill r&b flavor with a nice open warmth. "Song For Buster" has a cinematic quality and features Jeff Kasiwa on soprano sax. "Party Jazz" takes us out with that flash fried funk this ensemble pulls off effortlessly. A more acoustic sound seeps in and around the electric fire power on display for a nice layered approach.
For a contemporary/smooth jazz release it works on multiple levels. To begin the compression is not ridden so hard as to pull the life out of the music, the music is layered with subtle nuances that abound, a strong lyrical sense of direction.
Normally a release like this dies a self indulgent death in post production but not here! One of the more imaginative releases to come out of the contemporary side of jazz in perhaps two years. Contemporary fans across the board should delight in this record, one of those rare jewels easily missed but could extremely well with cross over audiences and word of mouth. I normally keep most releases such as this at arms length but this release goes in my heavy rotation.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Rico Belled produced, mixed and mastered this recording and played bass on (7), keys (8), and guitar on (9). Belled is a jazz triple threat to the second power! "J Squared!"
Tracks: Chester; Hooka; Ode To Miss Fairlane; Flexibility; Five of Eight; A Thousand Leaves; Song For Buster; Blue Son Herb; The Robot Song; Party Jazz.
Personnel: Dave Karasony: drums (2,3,5); Chris Coleman: drums (4,7,8); Sean Erick: trumpet (1); Jonathan Dresel: drums (1,6,10); Bill Heller: synth/piano on (5); Rodney Lee: rhodes solo (2); Sergio Gonzalez: gourd (5); Brad Rabuchin: guitar (6); Randy Landas: bass (6); Michael Burton: vocals (9); Andy Langham: piano (8); Sheila Gonzalez: sax (5); Ronnie Gutierrez: percussion (1,3,4,5,6,7,8,10); Jeff Kashiwa: EWI (3), soprano sax (7); Katisse Buckingham: flute/sax solos (1); Jon Greathouse: moog (9); Stan Sargeant: bass (1,10).