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Glen Campbell's "Ghost On The Canvas" Video, Plus Chatting with Miles Español's Bob Belden

Posted: 11/02/11 01:08 AM ET

GLEN CAMPBELL'S GHOST ON THE CANVAS VIDEO

Presented here is "Ghost On The Canvas," the first video from Glen Campbell's critically acclaimed album of the same name. The song's writer, Paul Westerberg, makes an appearance in the clip as well as Glen's children Ashley, Shannon and Cal, and it was directed by Kii Arens and Jason Trucco. FYI, Ghost On The Canvas is the final album to be recorded by the artist (charting on Billboard's Album Chart at #23), capping off an amazing career that has immortalized compositions such as John Hartford's "Gentle On My Mind," the Jimmy Webb-penned "By The Time I get To Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman," and "Galveston," plus "Rhinestone Cowboy," "Country Boy," "Southern Nights," and many others. Ghost On The Canvas also includes original songs by Jakob Dylan, Robert Pollard, and Teddy Thompson, and musicians Chris Isaak, Dick Dale, Billy Corgan, Brian Setzer, Rick Nielsen, Roger Manning, and The Dandy Warhols.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

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Tracks:
1. A Better Place
2. Ghost On The Canvas
3. The Billstown Crossroads
4. A Thousand Lifetimes
5. It s Your Amazing Grace
6. Second Street North
7. In My Arms - with Chris Isaak, Dick Dale, and Brian Setzer
8. May 21st, 1969
9. Nothing But The Whole Wide World
10. Wild And Waste Listen
11. Hold On Hope
12. Valley Of The Sun
13. Any Trouble
14. Strong - with Dandy Warhols
15. The Rest Is Silence
16. There s No Me...Without You - guitars by Billy Corgan, Marty Rifkin, Rick Nielsen, and Brian Setzer

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A Conversation with Bob Belden

Mike Ragogna: Bob, what inspired you to take on Miles Davis' latin works?

Bob Belden: I do not get inspired in the traditional sense. I wake up each day and think about ways to create a tangible intellectual asset. Depending on the immediate environment ideas pop into my head all the time. Over the years I have developed a network of producers, industry people and musicians that I can start a dialog about these ideas and develop them into fully fledged productions. I can conceptualize anything so when the right conversation comes up i have the idea ready to go. If you converse with intellectuals who are literate in wide ranging areas then conceptualizing ideas are as easy as sharing a good meal. Miles Español came about after reading a lot of books on the plague and the Berber Invasion of Spain and the Reconquista, the Inquisition and the gypsy migration from India, the links between India and North Africa and the expulsion of the non-Christians from Spain by Queen Liz in 1492. In that survey of humanity emerged a narrative that I could abstract into the language music. There are parallels today in the deportation of Romas from Europe, the genocidal migrations of Darfur and Somalia and the harassment of our Latino friends in the US. If there is any inspiration it is in the desire to reflect this Modern Reconquista in music.

MR: When were you first inspired by Miles?

BB: Again, I don't believe in the concept of 'inspiration'. It implies a "eureka" moment. I prefer "intrigued." I had been gigging as a saxophonist since I was 11 years old so the concept of inspiration at that age was directed towards Junior Walker and Walter Parazaider. I am attracted to sound and Miles had a sound I liked. His music contained extensions in the harmonic language that was similar to the music used in the Episcopal Church which I heard every Sunday. I was directly exposed to Miles at the age of 16 whilst a freshman at the then North Texas State University. My next door neighbor played "Bitches Brew" for me and after the music ended he said "If you can't figure this out by the time you leave you're an idiot." Being an impressionable child I believed him and in a few days I owned all of the existing LPs and knew that there was a lot of language to discover. Miles Davis is a specific language and if you can tell the difference from his words and others then the wonders of all individual jazz languages open up. Miles is beyond 'style'. Its a thing. More than music. You can bend the meaning of the language to allow for creative use. From the encyclopedia of Miles comes Coltrane, Shorter, Hancock, Carter, Chambers, Cobb, Jones, Chick, Jack, Sco, Sonny, Sammy and from those musicians the language is translated by Chano, Rabih, Edmar, Cristina, Victor, Jerry... then the language is given a spanish, arabic, gypsy, jewish, puerto rican, manhattan and cuban accent. It is like a rush hour subway where everyone is talking. And its passed along day by day, to places everywhere you can imagine and then some.

MR: Are the pieces included on Miles Español your favorites by Miles, or do you see another project in the future exploring another side of him?

BB: I like all of the music in the Miles catalog so what was chosen was based on the texture and narrative of the CD. Some obvious things would have made sense--"Spanish Key" or "Masqualero"--but this would have been a typical tribute CD and I do not make tribute CDs. I explore languages. We have a unifying focus. The cast of musicians are assembled for specific purposes. The Rodrigo was envisioned as a memory of my experiencing the cyclorama of the Cherokee Nation's forced march to the west called "Unto These Hills" as a child in North Carolina on vacation. The concept of Exodus is that of a sad deportation towards uncertainty and thus, after this beautiful melody is exposed all of the musicians are marched into the unknown. "Saeta/The Pan Piper" is what happens when all cultures exhaust each other from conflict, starting with a lament that admits defeat and a cathartic dance that sheds all vestiges of introversion. I wanted to paint with the sounds and emotions of those musicians. Tributes are about gratification and Miles Español is about exploration.

For reasons beyond explanation, I have three other CDs that have come out or are in the release stage, all associated with Miles Davis, a live concert covering "Bitches Brew" called Asiento, a remix of this live concert ("AGEMO") with Bill Laswell, DJ Logic, Joe Clausell and a CD of Asiento using Mike Brady's innovative headphone 3d60 surround mix, a true holographic sound experience. We are beginning the next CD, (it's) called Transparent Heart, which is a proto-technological aural narrative of Manhattan as it descends into an urban paranoid police state using a post-electronica template and applying an 'out for blood' attitude of the next generation of jazz musicians into a sound that is beyond description and is performed at the most intense level imaginable. Its a biographical look at the city from my perspective of living here 30 years straight in a row through all of the social upheavals that created a visual sound of the city. Manhattan has evolved from internal terror to external terror and over the many years of my life in Manhattan I have composed music to reflect this subtle yet frightening transition. As I was 100 yards from the South Tower when the second plane hit the building I am using that moment as the focus of the recording. The music has an underlying tension that you can feel in the Occupy Movement. You can see it in the architecture. You can hear the voices swallow up in the canyons of heartless conformism. These projects are on Rare Noise Records (www.rarenoiserecords.com). I have intellectual and technological freedom with Giacomo Bruzzo and Rare Noise. This is the 21st Century idea of a record company, a partnership of music, video, animation, technology, band support, political messaging and a fearless sense of exploration in many uncharted conceptual waters.

MR: What's the history of Miles Español from concept to completion?

BB: In 2000, I submitted a CD compilation idea to Sony Legacy called The Latin Side of Miles Davis and many of the tracks we intended to use on Miles Español came from that rejected compilation. In January of 2010 I met with Joan Cararach from the Barcelona Jazz Festival and Francois Zalacain of Sunnyside Records. The occasion was the debut of Chano Dominguez's Kind of Blue project. Joan, Francois and I had a conversation about creating something initially for the festival and I had the idea of adapting the Rodrigo to a classical guitar soloist using Gil Evan's charts, a reverse engineered kind of concept. Then that rejected compilation came into my mind and I said to Joan and Francois "Miles Español" and described in a second the outline of what eventually transpired. Joan bet that no company would fund such an idea but in two weeks I emailed him asking for email addresses because Miles Español was given the green light by Chuck Mitchell at eONE.

For three months i dedicated most of my time to coordinating, getting what eventually turned out to be 30+ musicians arriving in Manhattan on certain days during one week in May, 2010, in between the volcanic eruptions in Iceland. Chick Corea confirmed in 2 seconds of my clicking "send." Chick's 2-week stand at the Blue Note--which was recorded and will be released on Concord soon as Further Explorations--I was the co-producer of that project as well--served as an anchor as we decided to use the same guests on my project...Eddie Gomez, Jorge Pardo, Carles Benevant, Nino Joseles, John Scofield...and on his gig at the club. This was the first time I sounded Jack DeJohnette to be involved in one of my extravaganzas and to my delight he was into the concept and suggested (along with Chick) that I commission new music to compliment the "standards" that we were considering. Eventually the new music won out over the remakes and those that we remade I tried to stay as far away from Gil and Miles' versions. Once Chick and Jack were on board the other musicians could see the reality flowering so they could adjust their schedules and make the dates.

Keep in mind that many of the musicians I had never met. Yet they all showed up based on a few emails and the hope that a ticket would be ready, a car would be at the airport in NYC to take them to the hotel that they assumed would be ready upon arrival and that the studio would be booked and ready to record and they would be paid when they finished recording. You can see the level of trust one has to have among the larger music community. I am a disciple of the Alfred Lion School of Studio Conviviality.

MR: Did it feel like a mission?

BB: More of an adventure. You get into a focus zone where you can actually go days without eating--I went 4 days without a real meal--as all you can do is laser the project. You have to ignore everything around you to combat the tendency to lose direction as the lingering pressure of "expediency trumping all else" results in a lack of pure focus and attention to detail in advance of production. Recordings can suffer from a spread of interests after recording has begun and in some cases too many ideas are presented with no connection. So rather than use the mission analogy, an adventure is better. Every musician, the engineer, the copyist, the producer, we were all on an adventure. Lewis and Clark. Trying to figure out what was in the sandwich was a mission.

MR: How did this particular assembly of musicians come together?

BB: I use an intuitive form of Human Orchestration. On my own studio productions I have created about 50 different band combinations--only for recording, not for performing--so I knew who could work together by asking questions and in our modern age, checking out YouTube videos. It was equally important to let the musicians pick their own bands when possible. John Scofield wanted to record with Chick and Jack so viola, Chick and Jack are in the house! Chick wanted to record with Ron Carter so out goes a text message and the next thing you know...Ron Carter in the house! Adam Rudoph could use his vast collection of percussion instruments in a collaborative aspect with other instruments from contrasting cultures with Alex Acuna or Brahim Fabegame or Jerry Gonzales or Luisitos Quintones. I worked with Rabih Abou-Kahlil in Germany in the '90s and knew to open up the music to his virtuoso loud playing. Edmar Castaneda needs just the faintest outline to fashion wonderful ideas into something special. Cristina Pato's bagpipe was the choice that surprised everyone because it was not well known that Spain had a tradition of the bagpipe in its music culture. And as she also improvises you can let the moment supersede the intended. Many musicians wanted to record together as they were mutual admirers. it was casual and natural, nothing forced on the musicians. There was no set idea as to what was supposed to happen, it just happened.

Just as important are those who make the music come alive in the studio by capturing all of the excitement and adventure. Richard King is an engineer that defies the general description of that task. Richard is the only engineer who could be trusted to make the sound transform the perception of the music. He brought out textures in the music that gave the uniqueness of each instrument a cohesive groove and level of energy. In my opinion the reason some reviewers can't quite pinpoint the "style" of the music is that Richard has recording the instruments in such detail that it sounds new and fresh on a purely acoustic level. Having Robert Sadin in the booth when I was conducting allowed me to shape my arrangements in an improvisational method and his comments are couched in years of experience.

MR: Do you have any stories about the recording process, maybe what it was like to work with some of these artists?

BB: When you have to make all of the elements come together in a project such as this things tend to blur during the actual process. That is why cameras were in the studio, so that later, you can see the expressions of the musicians as they go through the creative process. From that assessment I discovered that so much joy and happiness came through on the videos that is not present via audio. The production was more of a family reunion and think tank and victory celebration all rolled into one week. There was a lot of communication, a lot of collaboration and a lot of discovery. Not one frown. I have a lot of history with many of the players so it was less 'working' in the traditional sense. If things are set up correctly then its about capturing the spirit of the music. And who doesn't want to work with Chick, Jack, Sco, Ron, Chano, Jorge, Rabih, Carles, Eddie, Cristina, Victor, Edmar, Sonny, Sammy... In the end it was fun. The cats are open and free and filled with a passion that goes beyond the instruments. Each person communicated a personal history on their instrument but also a collective form of expression. A cultural bind that goes back to the dawn of mankind.

MR: How did you bring the CD and DVD elements together?

BB: I have been a passive film maker for a few years and produced and directed my first documentary film in 2010 for Chick Corea and Chamber Music America. I enjoy the merging of the two concepts, film and music. One of the innovative aspects of the production of Miles Español was to let the documentary element supersede the aural aspects by refocusing the physical narrative on the process of creating the music. I had worked with Eli Cane on a Nicholas Payton CD for Nonesuch in 2007 and after leaving Nonesuch, Eli co-founded a film company, Normal Life Pictures, and from that position, he was able to step into the project and became a key player in the success of both the visual and aural aspects of Miles Español. Once Eil was on board I could shift the narrative of the project from a music-centric focus--Miles Davis and Sketches of Spain--to the creation of the music from an organic foundation...folk music and new music. The story was in the intellectual collaboration and the aural results and not about Miles Davis and Gil Evans. From this Eli was able to fashion a documentary as well as a raison d'etre for the project on a broader cultural perspective. Eli put together a great camera crew of Hugo Berkeley and Jojo Pennebacker and the musicians responded to the cameras by being totally absorbed in the music. It could be said that this hybrid form, a mix of music and documentary and performance videos, could serve as a template for the progressive nature of the production of intellectual property. This convergence of film and music at the level of high art is an open door to our salvation as creators. It expands the communicative potential of any expressive representation.

MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

BB: Do you mean the socially acceptable use of the word "artist" that is cliché and unproductive, mostly a marketing tool to transform the average into--the average?

MR: That depends, what are your thoughts on this?

BB: The concept of being an "artist" is more self-realization and actualization rather than a life from beginning to present that is steeped in the bohemian tradition of the free spirit and a vibrant intellectual curiosity. There are many musicians who play well--in today's language "well" is now "amazing"--but are they "artists"? It does look great in a press release but it's a word that never comes up in polite conversation. I prefer to use "cat" instead of "artist." If indeed we have "new artists," then everyone is an artist and one needs not grow from life but from internal gratification and visceral analogs. Art is in one part of the definition, expression. Not wanting to speak in absolutist terms so common in our modern discourse, I would instead offer an observation that jazz is a mix of self-expression and unification, unification being a conformity to a standard of performance (something painters and poets do not have as a hang up) set up by a mysterious consensus. This conformity can mute personal expression as one tends to "re-express" other emotions from other musicians, themselves being considered 'artists' by the cognoscenti. Many jazz "artists" are plagiarists in that they reconstruct literally ideas--"words"--of other artists. It is part of the education process, not learning and knowledge but the process of being educated.

If you are raised to be involved in an environment of ideas and actions, this would be the grounding for art to emerge. You can't "become" an artist, you know it from the start. You wake up thinking about ways to create the world around you in the image you feel viable. Life is the greatest resource for ideas. Living a full unimpeded life gives one a perspective that opens up the wildest corners of the imagination. I think young musicians, having gone through the jazz education process, are wary of advice as this is interpreted as "continuing education." I think once they get the idea into their head that they want to play then mistakes and poor judgment calls are part of the process.

As far as advice to younger musicians, replacing "new artists," I am horrible at this concept. My own band, animation, is made up of young musicians--you would call them "New Artists." Pete Clagett on trumpet, Jordan Gheen on keyboards. Jacob Smith on electric bass. Matt Young on drums. The rhythm section is aged 19-22. Jordan and Matt are students at the University of North Texas. Pete and Jacob are alum. I don't give them advice. They are already bohemian. They know what to do. Natural musicians. They just have to grow as human beings. I just express the idea that music is an adventure with no script, filled with surprises and a lot of gratification. So if you feel the need to 'give advice' or 'impart wisdom' on the emerging cast of jazz musicians, just hire them in your band. If you are an older "new artist" then I can offer no advice as you are enjoying the fruits of labor that is meant for very special people.

MR: Where do you see Miles Davis' place in history 50 years from now?

BB: I am more concerned with paying my rent today and making my own history. After all, obscurity has its place in the scheme of things. Since a corporation owns Miles Davis, he could live forever and even run for president if Mitt Romney becomes president. I fear that by lionizing in perpetuity corporate icons one comes close to admitting the 'end of empire' syndrome and suddenly we are celebrating Queens Victoria's Diamond Jubilee of 1897 forever. The reliance on pure nostalgia and not a developmental form of expanding the progressive elements of a nostalgic context will stifle the presentation of music (all forms) to the point of becoming robotic and generic. As practiced today much of jazz is a form of intellectual commuting from the suburbs to the renovated inner city.

Miles Davis as a language will live forever as part of the genetic code of musicians. His relevance as a human being will be distorted by media and one caricature will endure. You have to assume in 50 years the idea of "history" will have a social relevance. With the possibility of virtual history one can create via holography any perceived form of history as one sees fit and those collective distortions of history will undue centuries of empirical research. Jazz is many aspects is a historical re-enactment in the same spirit as those who don blue coats and muskets and relive the winter at Valley Forge sipping coffee out of a thermos bottle. Its a time displacement that in some ways reflects a denial of progress and reality.

MR: Will there be touring to support the project?

BB: I am glad you asked this question. One has to separate a recording artist from a performing artist/entertainer. A recording artist in the pure sense makes music to last for eternity. They live up to the meaning of the word recording, to make a permanent record of your thoughts and ideas. Performers and entertainers tend to make music that is designed to last a project cycle. At one time the concept of a recording artist could be afforded in our society but alas, now only the performer/entertainer is surviving. Recordings are used to "document" an artist or to create mercantile elements for sale on gigs and via private channels. Miles Español is the concept of a recording artist, Moi, out to make a work of art--the intention of course, only time and humanity will decide--at the expense of commercialization. With that as the pretext, one can imagine the difficulty in creating a tour based on the vision of a recording artist in today's performance centric marketplace. It is an issue that faces jazz musicians of all stages in there life.

I have an idea as to how this recording would make sense as a touring entity logistically and above all represent my intentions of the project in a performance setting. The difficulties are in two parts. Part one is the abundance of Miles Davis related retrospective projects of all shapes and sizes by famous and non-famous musicians. Big Bands. Hip-Hop bands. Album covers (I did one..forgive me!!!) and all-star jam sessions and major festivals. Part two is the availability of certain musicians who have marquee value as Performers but can't commit to a project that is not theirs. They made a recording and did not sign onto a tour. So what you have is a core potential of musicians that are not on the A-list of booking agencies and festival promoters but are on the A-list of critics and media. The celebrity aspect of production across all aspects of the music industry will discourage organic music at the mercantile level. The celebrity aspect of live presentations has gotten so out of balance that one does not have "gigs" but "events."

I could put together a show that would dazzle the mind and soul. It would be about the journey that captured the imagination of Miles Davis and Gil Evans and every jazz fan who breaths air. It would be a narrative of the collective heart of the world via cultural migration. The show would be a celebration of beauty, of grace and elegance. Musicians would be introduced to the audience in such a personal way that they will all find places in the hearts and imagination of those who attend. After all, I created the recording so why should I not create the performance aspect. What holds this from happening is the adherence to a caste system in the jazz business whereas I, the producer, lose all rights in performance because producers are not performers/entertainers, therefore, they are not artists. Miles Davis becomes the defacto artist and the creator of the project loses all control of the performance aspect. Promoters and agencies then use the high concept of Miles Español to create a shadow project that is less fulfilling than the tactile document and the audience suffers from malnutrition. I do believe that this post-presentation diffusion of the core project is somewhat part of the overall dismal state of jazz music and its musicians and the ability to sustain and build a broad audience.

The odds are stacked against the elegant. Miles Español does not have slide shows and spoken words and rap to portray the feeling of language. We won't have media-directed famous legends of jazz or popular songs to dominate the music. We would have musicians doing what they do at the best of their abilities, an idea that is so out of fashion as to be radical.

Tracks:
Concierto De Aranjuez
Trampolin Miles Español
Just Three Miles
Duende
Fantasia Por Miles Y Gil
Broto Y Cayo
Paisaje
Saeta/Pan Piper
Spantango
Flamenco Sketches
Tirititran
El Swing
Fantasia por Miles y Gil
Teo / Neo
Beautiful Love
Solea

 
 
 

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