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Bob Belden: La Cigale

In the early ’90s, Bob Belden poured most of his considerable energy into the Bob Belden ensemble. The 16-piece band was populated by some of New York’s most adventurous musicians, players who loved to explore possibilities on the avant garde edge of jazz. Belden soloed on tenor saxophone in a style that owed something to Wayne Shorter. His major contributions, however, were arrangements and leadership that inspired his gifted young men to concentrations of intensity that produced visceral excitement.

His Treasure Island CD captured some of that excitement. La Cigale has even more. It was recorded in 1990 at the Paris Jazz Festival in a concert at La Cigale theater. Driven by the rhythm section of Marc Copland, Jay Anderson and Jeff Hirshfield, the band was turned on, and so was the audience. The chemistry induced superb performances by the ensemble and its soloists, among them pianist Copland, trumpeter Tim Hagans, alto saxophonist Mike Migliore, and Jim Powell on flugelhorn. Hagans’ solo on Belden’s arrangement of Sting’s “The Dream of the Blue Turtles” is notable for its emotion and fluency. Migliore combines elements of Phil Woods and Johnny Hodges in his work on “The Treasure.” Craig Handy takes a soaring tenor ride over the ensemble on “Woman of Mystery.” The depth of Belden’s writing is apparent in “Psalm No.1,” which builds under Powell’s and Belden’s solos from pastoral quiet to the magnitude of a storm before it resolves into a peaceful ending.

Originally Published