Jazz Big Dog Mentors Young Cats

The Bob Belden (’78) band, Animation, from left to right, Robert Verastegui (’11), former jazz studies major Jacob Smith, Belden, sophomore jazz studies major Matt Young and Pete Clagett (’12 M.M.).When Grammy Award-winning saxophonist and jazz producer Bob Belden ('78) recorded his latest CD, Transparent Heart, he picked musicians that had a special connection to him — young UNT alumni and students.

Transparent Heart is a music diary to Belden's home of 30 years, Manhattan. The music uses natural sounds and radio transmissions from the city mixed in with electronica and abstract jazz. Belden, who has produced many of the Sony/Legacy Miles Davis reissues, has recorded 20 CDs as bandleader.

He formed the band Animation for Transparent Heart after hearing bassist Jacob Smith, who was a jazz studies major, on a CD. The band also includes Roberto Verastegui ('11) on keyboards, Pete Clagett ('12 M.M.) on trumpet and sophomore jazz studies major Matt Young on drums.

It's full circle for Belden, who came to UNT at age 16 and started taking senior-level courses. He says the music school gave him the flexibility to mix jazz and contemporary classical composition, as well as the opportunity to work with faculty members such as Martin Mailman, Leon Breeden, Dan Haerle ('66) and Jim Riggs.

Now Belden, who was named a distinguished alumnus in 2007, is mentoring his own bandmates, who have traveled across the United States and Europe.

"It's always about the high level of performance that the 'students' at UNT strive to achieve and the quest for understanding the idea of being a musician that, for me, is inspiring to be around," Belden says. "And these cats all get along. Traveling for us is about enjoying life and having as much fun as possible all the time and performing at the highest level we can."