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Reviews: Bob Belden: Black Dahlia

Reviews: 7

Review by madisonears October 7, 2003 (2 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Wow, is this a cool disc. I had no idea what to expect--bought it on Belden's reputation from other music. If you like jazz--almost any kind--you will be intrigued by this complex and tuneful program. The sound is darn near perfect: it snarls when the brass blows hard, but then gets real sweet and pretty when the stage lights dim. The soundstage is wide and deep. Instrumental definition and tonality are some of the best I've heard. This disc would be a good investment for anyone who wants to broaden their taste a little, or for jazz fans tired of listening to all the old classics. Don't get me wrong--I love Miles and Coltrane, Rollins and Monk and Mingus, but new music like this deserves to be heard.

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Review by mikek October 13, 2003 (1 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Absolutely wonderful music. This was just a curiosity throw-in for me when I was buying John Coltrane, "Blue Trane" and Norah Jones. Well sonically this turned out to be the very best by far. The music is mood fixing meeting its intent to place you in the dark streets of 1930's LA. This disc excites me even further to the potential of surround music on new titles. I can't wait until they actually compose jazz, blues and pop/rock or anything else specifically to use the benefits of this medium. Stereo! What stereo! But, then again I'm a guy who freaked out over quadraphonic (I had one) and reverbs (yes they were awful). I have been given life through music for almost 40 years now. I didn't understand those who complained about stereo versus mono. I never understood the lp versus cd thing and, I'm sure I won't understand the SACD/Surround versus CD/lp/stereo issue. But then again, you always have the option to listen in stereo on an SACD. Anyways this disc maybe more than any other (with the exclusion of Beck's "Sea Changes")gives me great hope for the future of music and the young creators of that music.

P.S. God Bless Johnny Cash! "I've Been Everywhere Man", and now you have Johnny.

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Review by Monteverdi October 22, 2003 (1 of 1 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I is rare that a composer will write a major composition for jazz orchestra and do it with such taste and imagination. This is a soundtrack which might spawn a film in the future, or might provide the basis for a ballet.
Having lived with the original CD release for a few years, I find the SACD remastering an improvement, more spacious in MC, to a significant extent. Dynamics are much increased as well. The accomplishments of Bob Belden and his spendid musicians should be celebrated. I think the more we live with this music, the more we may regard Belden's Black Dahlia as a classic in orchestral jazz.
©AE 2004

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Review by vonwegen June 14, 2004 (0 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I've had this release for almost 8 months, but have been really torn about how to review it. One the one hand, it really is a superb recording of some really lush jazz, arranged for orchestra, with really fine surround dynamics. You can definitely use this as a surround sound demo and will win instant converts without exception.

On the other hand... IGNORE the liner notes, because this mood music simply does not fit its subject matter: one of the most grisly murders in U.S. history, one that pre-dated the Manson Family murders by some 25 years. Bongo drums happily tapping along to "The Edge Of Forever" do not convey anything like a sinister enough mood, at least for my taste.

Especially cringe-worthy is Belden's description of the tune "Prelude To Love" which "sets the stage for saxophonist Joe Lovano to become the imaginary lover in Elizabeth's life." A lovely conceit, albeit an ill-researched one, as, according to biographer John Gilmore, the murder victim Elizabeth Short's autopsy records reveal she was born without a vulva, rendering such a theme as totally moot.

The irony is, had Belden used James Ellroy's novel "The Black Dahlia" as the sole inspiration for this 'soundtrack without a movie', the music would have fit well, as Ellroy's novel really centers on another romance between a L.A.P.D. detective who is investigating the case and a mysterious woman who looks at times very similar to the victim.

The thematic discrepancy is the only reason why I have to dock this 2 stars in the performance--that aside, you cannot ask for better playing and arranging.

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Review by sthebkrman February 14, 2005 (2 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I agree with everyone on the sonics of this album. This is a great demo SACD. I did not pay much attention to the whole theme but just like the music by itself. I am not a jass enthusiast but this CD as well as a few others have quickly converted me. I think a lot of it is the realism you get with Super Audio. The horns on this CD are outstanding. If you leave the room, you think someone is in there practicing. If you want a great orchestral jazz SACD, this is it.

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Review by DeSelby February 26, 2005 (1 of 3 found this review helpful)
Sonics:
stereo sonics: top sound

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Review by miguelito54 March 7, 2007 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This sounds like a soundtrack to a movie - it is ironic that the acutal Black Dahlia movie about the life of Elizabeth Short, has music by Mark Isham. Bob Belden's music is inspired by the life of the tragic woman murdered at the age of barely 23 years. It could be called a jazz opera without words. The writing is not too progressive, but very substantial, and all the soloists handle their parts with dedication and care. Make up your own storyline in your head while listening. The sound alone is worth the price of the disc, with wide natural room ambience doing the band full justice. (The only disctraction to me is Zach Danzinger's bongo playing - it shows too much that he is not a real bongocero but a drummer, and it stands out a little too much compared to the drum set. I love percussion, but I could have done without it here. Gil Evans had drummers handling the percussion on his Impulse albums - was this the inspiration?)
Now please give us some more good big bands on SACD, will you? If it sounds like this it easily cuts any standard CD. The more complex the sounds, the better the results with the higher resolution - not news, but reaffirmed truth.

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