In the notes for the second album by Bob Belden’s Animation project, the US sax player states that this, “is not a jazz record, it’s about my life in Manhattan”. The music is, he says, an honest reflection of the lingering tension there since 9/11.
Consistently energetic and dramatic, much like the iconic city itself, these musical sketches benefit from strikingly clear lines and streamlined arrangements that frame intense, often superb performances by Belden’s associates, remarkably all still in their twenties.
Mature, world-class contributions come from all concerned, but trumpeter Peter Claggett is an especially outstanding presence across the entire album. Amid the seething exuberance there often lurks a plaintive, melancholic ache within the sparse, poignant themes, carrying luminous echoes of the startling harmonies peppering early Weather Report, and, inevitably, electric-era Miles Davis. Yet Animation sounds utterly contemporary.
On the final track, Occupy!, with the voices of protesters chanting ‘who do you serve?’ Belden asks what it means to be both apart from and a part of something bigger than ourselves.