Juan Belda and BLT Band ‘La rueda infinita de Hans’ (BC8 Musica) 3/5

Spanish keyboard wizard Juan Belda returns with an album that is, if anything, even more eclectic than its predecessor. The title refers first of all to the conceptual notion of the inside of a wheel being infinite, but one that once you are outside of this it then becomes a more fragile object. Hans is concevied of as an imaginary middle age architect who wishes to build an ecological sustainable futuristic city in the Mauritanian desert. Full marks for creative thinking on Juan’s part. It is with this visionary approach to music that one should appreciate the music within and with Belda doubling up on various keyboards and guitar. On ‘A Spanish revolution’ prog-rock style keyboards that Rick Wakeman would be at home with serve as the backdrop to a layer of synthesizer effects and tasteful keyboard-driven strings. Contrast this with the vibes-led ‘Verano (algo torrido)’ where long-term collaborator and Spanish jazz icon Jorge Pardo joins up on flute and vocals courtesy of Leo Minax. Arguably the most interesting new avenue that Juan Belda explores on the album is ‘En casa de Aziz’ which immediately evokes the sounds and flavours of Marrakesh in Morocco. This is a departure for Belda and one that has been achieved in collaboration with Moroccan musician and close friend Aziz, recorded directly after spending several evenings of live music with friends. It is a definite album highlight and, perhaps, a future album project might be to devote an entire CD to the exploration of North African and Iberian music, but still from Belda’s own unique perspective. The album ends on a high with an inventive take on Gershwin’s standard ‘Summertime’ and this was recorded on a plethora of keyboard sounds that includes electric piano, Fender Rhodes (plus pedal for distorsion) and the impressive sounding ‘Eventide harmonizer’. In general the musician explores once more how the latest musical techonology can be fused with human inventiveness and this is perfectly illustrated on ‘My new bathroom’ which includes the voice of a seller at IKEA! The drum and bass pattern here becomes more intense. Ideally one would like a little more of Belda’s soloing and the all too rapid soloing on ‘Las campas del fondo’ provides the briefest of insights into Belda’s undoubted keyboard prowess. That being said, the musical concept is king here and this comes to fruition on ‘Deja tu veneno en casa’ on which Jorge Pardo joins in on alto saxophone and special guest Newyorikan trumpeter/percussionist Jerry Gonzalez contributes on muted Harmon on a hustle bustle of a number. Spanish jazz is anything but formulaic and this always entertaining album proves the point. Tim Stenhouse