JJ 08/90: Bob Belden Ensemble: Treasure Island

Thirty years ago Bruce Crowther noted that university-educated big bands were precise but not always soulful. First published in Jazz Journal 1990

Until recently, the vast number of American university students flooding out of places like East­man and UCLA and North Texas State had only limited places to go if they wanted to play in big bands: Kenton, Herman, Rich, Ferguson. Now they haven’t even those outlets (pace Maynard) but some of them have not lost the desire and turn up in rehearsal bands and, as here, in a band formed and led by an NTSU gra­duate.

Belden left university in 1978, went into the Herman band and formed this group early in 1989. His sidemen include men (I hesitate to use the term ‘veter­ans’) who have worked with Mul­ligan, Akiyoshi, Blakey, Ibrahim, Lewis, the aforementioned Her­man, Ferguson et al, and a string of symphony gigs where their thorough musical grounding and undoubted technical expertise stood them in good stead.

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On this set there is no lack of brilliant playing even if, as so often is the case with the university bands and, dare I say it, some of the latterday recordings by Woody and Buddy and the others, there is sometimes an absence of heart and soul.

Some of the music here is familiar (Zawinul’s Directions, Shorter’s Face, Spencer Wil­liams’s Basin Street). Most is new with the long suite of particular interest as an example of the directions being taken by many young musicians today.

In all, this is interesting rather than ex­citing music played with preci­sion and skill rather than relaxed swing. If you like the university bands and late Kenton, Rich and Herman you will probably like this one; others should hear it first. Good sound and excellent playing time.

Discography
Treasure Island Suite: Treasure Island, Deja Vu, The Treasure, Rites Of Passage, The Goodbye, The Voyage Home; Directions; Face On The Barroom Floor; Miss Razeau; Country Corn­flakes; Love From My Heart; Basin Street Blues; Pas De Deux (77.08)
Jim Powell, Tim Hagans (t/flh); John Fedchock (tb); George Moran (btb); Peter Reit (frh); Carl Klienstrauber (tu); Chuck Wilson (cl/f); Mike Migliore (as/f/picc); Ron Kozak (bcl/af); Bob Belden (ts); Tim Ries, Craig Handy (ts/ss); Glenn Wilson (bs); Marc Cohen (p/syn); Jay Anderson (b); Jeff Hirshfield (d); New York City 12, 13 August 1989.
(SunnysideSSC1041D)

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