Bob Belden and Tim Hagans explore Bitches Brew 

JAC's Upstairs at McCrady's series ends with a bang

Charleston All-Stars w/ Bob Belden & Tim Hagans and Animation
McCrady's
June 10

Light blue walls, modern chandeliers, and beautifully hung watercolors ran down two long dinner tables, ending into a simple stage backed by a bare brick wall. From the windows on the far side of the room to the drum kit and keyboard in the front, the room seemed to melt from upscale restaurant to cozy back alley jazz club. Well, if the club were in the back of a really nice restaurant in a really nice back alley, off a really nice street, in a really nice neighborhood. But if the bare brick wasn't providing the jazz mood, the music certainly did. Bob Belden, Tim Hagans, and their band Animation made sure jazz in its purest form was the evening's main course.

The set list revolved around the group's Asiento CD, a reimagining of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew LP. A revolution in 1970, the recording was a new type of jazz that mixed traditional jazz improvisation with hours of postproduction, introducing music mixing technology to the genre. At the heart of Bitches Brew was the idea that jazz is organic. Each song a constant experiment, fed by the personality of each musician. Friday night, in a manufactured jazz club, Belden and crew were able to stay true to the natural spirit of Bitches Brew.

Animation mirrored Davis' love of improvisational jazz through their jam session like performance. Davis' words, whispers, and whistles of direction can be heard on the original recording of Bitches Brew. It was this same type of loose direction that Belden gave his band. The gentle raise of a palm, the extension of an index finger, or a telling nod would give a player just enough direction to unify the music without stifling the artist's personal touch. Experimentation was encouraged with mistakes the invited guests of spontaneity. This exploration was exemplified as keyboardist Jordan Gheen mouthed along to new-age sound effects he daringly and successfully inserted into each song (some sounded like landing hovercraft, others like barking dogs). His ever-present smile was reflected in the faces of the other musicians, as they all seemed to be having a blast jamming together while the audience spied from their chairs. The result was jazz that felt genuine and unique to the moment.

With improvisation the mode of the music, the three new band members provided the style. College students Gheen, Jacob Smith, and fittingly named 18 year-old drummer Matt Young added a youthful exuberance that modernized the 1970s music. Hip-hop rhythms and new-age synths rang from the keyboard, bass, and drums, providing a new twist on the old classic.

As talented as Belden and Hagans are, the three young artists stole the show with their willingness to follow their elders' lead while injecting their own personal style. They were ready to take a leap of faith in their own musical intuitions from the back of Bitches Brew and land in a sound distinctly their own. The result was a performance that went down as smooth as Bitches Brew, only served in a modern mug.

The show was a successful end to the Jazz Artists of Charleston series. Belden and Hagans were true class on the saxophone and trumpet. But their gentle on-stage guidance allowed the three young artists to star. Whether it was "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" or the group's Belden-penned piece "New Song Number 2," the set's dedication to calculated risk taking and encouragement of personal expression and exploration made for a completely enjoyable, new, and honest homage to Bitches Brew.


Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Powered by Foundation   © Copyright 2017, Charleston City Paper   RSS