Michael Bellar: Fred Jones, Pt. 2

Track

Michael Bellar

Artist

Michael Bellar (fender rhodes)

CD

Turned On Turned Up (Left Three Lanes 0476)

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Musicians:

Michael Bellar (fender rhodes),

Rob Jost (electronic bass), Brad Wentworth (drums)

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Composed by Ben Folds

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Recorded: Union City, NJ, date not given. Released Sept. 15, 2009

Bellar

Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

Described as an "alt-jazz electro-acoustic group," Michael Bellar & the AS-IS Ensemble explores jazz, rock, funk, and world musics in formulations both charged and mellow. Keyboardist-leader Bellar also currently plays with singer/songwriter Amos Lee, and apparently has a liking for the kind of ingratiating ballads penned by Lee and others such as Ben Folds and Bjork, which is also evident in his own compositions "Sublime" and "Yoga for Prison Girls" on his group's new CD, Turned On Turned Up.

The trio's instrumental version of Folds' striking "Fred Jones Pt. 2," which first appeared on that artist's 2001 Rockin' the Suburbs release, manages to bring out all of that tune's unforced sentimentality and feelings of regret, frustration, and even bitterness. Folds' moving lyrics tell of a man leaving a job after 25 years, either fired or forced to retire. "There was no party, there were no songs / 'Cause today's just a day like the day that he started / No one is left here that knows his first name." Bellar's translucent, unaffected approach is refreshing, as he simply allows the inherent beauty of the piece to shine through. Rob Jost's solid-as-bedrock bass blends smoothly with Bellar's Fender Rhodes, and Brad Wentworth's tasteful drumming is unobtrusively forceful when required. Bellar's appealing chime-like sound is mesmerizing in itself, and his layered, overlapping lines during the climactic crescendo are stirring. He winds down to a degree at the very end before effectively introducing some contrasting reverb just prior to the last few wistful notes. Whether or not you are familiar with Folds' original take, it would be hard not to appreciate what Bellar, Jost, and Wentworth have accomplished on this track.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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