Surround sound was supposed to deliver an incomparable experience. It was supposed to get more people excited about music. It was supposed to bring new life to cherished classic recordings. And it was supposed to counteract the trend toward illegal downloads.
None of that happened. DVD-Audio, one of the two formats created to deliver music in surround sound, is all but dead. SACD, the other format, survives primarily as a stereo medium. But Bob Belden—one of jazz’s most accomplished arrangers and composers, and former head of A&R for Blue Note Records—thinks it deserves a second chance. Indeed, he feels it’s an essential technology for moving jazz into the future. “Everybody’s stuck making 20th-century recordings,” Belden comments during a phone interview from his Manhattan apartment. “Many of the jazz recordings made today sound essentially the same: piano left, sax right, everything else in the middle. You’re painting over a gray house with gray paint.