Edward Simon
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Edward Simon

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Mar
01
Edward Simon @ Village Vanguard

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

Feb
28
Edward Simon @ Village Vanguard

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

Feb
27
Edward Simon @ Village Vanguard

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

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Review by: John Kelman


Some artists seem to burst onto the scene, even though the reality may be something else entirely. Ethan Iverson of the Bad Plus and Esbjorn Svensson of E.S.T. both worked below the radar for periods of time before they were, seemingly suddenly, "discovered." Such instant fame comes with a disadvantage, however. Being the flavour of the month also implies that, at some point, the public's tastes will move on.

Others gradually insinuate themselves into the public's consciousness, often through years of apprenticeship with others and a steady move towards a solo career. Case in point is pianist Edward Simon, who spent the early ‘90s working with artists including Greg Osby and, perhaps most notably, Bobby Watson's Horizons. Simon has also developed some long-standing musical partnerships that continue to this day, including those with alto saxophonist David Binney, with whom he recently released a duet recording, Fiestas de Agosto, and guitarist Adam Rogers, on whose three Criss Cross albums he's appeared, including the new Apparitions. The wealth of experience that Simon has gained has given him a broader scope that never forgets the folkloric roots of his Venezuelan upbringing, and it has kept him from being branded as just another Latin player.

On Simplicitas Simon continues to expand the piano trio tradition that he so vividly explored on ‘03's The Process. Mixing original material with compositions by Brazilian singer Luciana Souza—who also adds wordless vocals to the impressionistic, ECM-informed Simon piece, "Unknown Path"—and Irish saxophonist Michael Buckley—whose melancholic hymnal, "South Facing," is a highlight of the album, demonstrating Simon's undivided attention to the nuances of and between every note—Simon has created a set where the songs flow forward with a distinct sense of purpose.

While Simon reveals clear roots in all the usual suspects—Evans, Hancock, Jarrett—he has long since subsumed them within his own brand of lyricism. He has the kind of technical facility, the kind of left hand/right hand independence that can only come from years of woodshedding and on-the-bandstand experience. It's Simon's ability to make every note count and every phrase feel special—whether on the more overtly Latin-informed 6/8 vamp of "Fiestas" or the equally bright "Infinite One," which alternates between a bass-held pedal point and an invigorating swing supported by bassist Avishai Cohen and drummer Adam Cruz—that makes his work truly sing.

Two versions of the Harry Warren standard "You're My Everything," based on Herbie Hancock's reharmonized changes for the '62 Freddie Hubbard classic Hub-Tones, vividly demonstrate how imaginative improvisers can approach the same piece night after night, still making every performance feel familiar, yet fresh and new.

Simon may not have the name recognition or popularity of the Bad Plus or E.S.T., but he's every bit their contemporary equal. With a steadily-growing body of work that reaches further stylistically than either of these groups, Simon will undoubtedly prove to have greater longevity.
- AllaboutJazz.com


Musicians: David Binney (alto sax) Edward Simon (piano) Scott Colley (bass) Brian Blade (drums) Adam Cruz (percussion) Lucia Pulido (voice) Adam Rogers (guitar)

Since emerging in the mid-'90s with the cross-genre fusion group Lost Tribe, alto saxophonist David Binney has been carving the kind of musical niche that most artists dream of. Though he's a potent and innovative player, his compositional skills are even more important. His writing is so distinctive that one can identify a Binney composition—regardless of the context—within the first few bars. And between the experimental cooperative Lan Xang and his own gradually growing discography, Binney has been developing a reputation for complex form that still leaves ample room for improvisational exploration.

Edward Simon has similarly been emerging as one of his generation's most versatile and compelling pianists. Through associations with artists including Bobby Watson, Greg Osby, and Terence Blanchard, Simon has demonstrated a remarkable ability to fuse his personal roots in Latin music—he's a Venezuelan by birth—with a more contemporary jazz sensibility. And, over the past few years, he's developed a personal rapport with Binney that has resulted in some particularly special collaborations, including the recent duet recording for the Italian Red Records label, Fiestas de Agosto.

An earlier Red Records collaboration, Afinidad, finds Binney and Simon in a larger group context that includes bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade, along with guitarist Adam Rogers, percussionist Adam Cruz, and vocalist Lucia Pulido on select tracks. Perhaps more than any other recording they've done together, Afinidad explores Latin rhythms and textures, but filtered through Binney and Simon's own broader aesthetics they create a sound that, while possessing unassailable roots, goes in new directions as well: a more progressive Latin, if you will.

Sharing the writing duties, as well as including two miniatures by Argentinean composer Ginastera and a lengthy piece by Venezuelan icon Simon Diaz, Binney's contributions are filled with the rich counterpoint that has come to define his writing, along with memorable themes that seem to glide atop a more complex rhythmic backdrop. As intricate as his writing is, there's a certain folksiness that drummer Blade's own band, Fellowship, has also explored. Binney has a slightly rough edge to his tone at times, and the ability to build the intensity of a solo to an exhausting peak, as he does on his own "Red" and Diaz's "Mi Querencia."

Simon's writing reflects more overt Latin Roots; "Pere" is a high-energy 5/4 piece that takes the clave tradition to new places, while "Aguantando" starts with a classical guitar solo from Rogers that has precedence in Egberto Gismonti, but is more polished, less raw. A lengthy melody, sung by Pulido and doubled by Binney, demonstrates the pair's mutual kinship, both demonstrating a similar penchant for long-form thematic development. Like Binney, Simon takes his time developing his solos, with a warm approach that, while harmonically advanced, is never angular or diffuse.

Afinidad documents the growing affinity between Binney and Simon. It's remarkable how two artists from such diverse cultural backgrounds can find a true common ground through a modernistic approach to Latin music. - AllaboutJazz.com


You are left right away with this wonderful sense of musical emergence as soon as you start to listen to this fine piece of work. Binney & Simon guarantee to provoke the heart & soul of the intelligent music lover as well as any inquiring devotee of jazz with their new project.

One hears a lovely underpinning of viable harmony, melody & cogent rhythmic vigor throughout in the essence of their artistic ideas. The listener should consider the very character & rhythmic content of this project which contains a sonorous, dynamic, & a high level of musical continuity. The harmonic ''color'' contained therein is stunning. Plus there's a field day of musical motion: contrary...chromatic...parallel, etc. Simply stated, it's compelling & beautiful.
- Ejazznews.com


Artistic evolution is an interesting phenomenon. Emerging musicians, filled with the brashness of youth, are often more focused on chops, energy and complexity. But as many mature they evolve into players more concerned with space and profound simplicity. Edward Simon is a strong case in point: the pianist's earlier albums are filled with detailed compositions and an almost pathological approach to blending his South American roots with the sophisticated language of modern jazz.

Recently he�s been paring down his approach, and Unicity represents his most compositionally stripped-down effort to date. But it�s the very brevity of the charts here that frees Simon, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade to create some of the most evocative music of Simon�s career.

Shorter charts needn�t imply any less challenge when it comes to improvisation, nor do they suggest a lack of spirited energy. In fact, with less detailed roadmaps, the trio is forced to rely even more on interpretive interplay and the kind of dynamics that can only occur when the musicians are speaking with a single voice.

�Pathless Path� revolves around a simple ostinato pedal point that�s reminiscent of Keith Jarrett�s Changeless (ECM, 1982). But Simon contrasts with Jarrett�s stream-of-consciousness aesthetic through an equally emotive but more thoughtfully evolved chordal approach where the drama builds imperceptibly, noticeable only when Patitucci and Blade bring the dynamics back down and Simon becomes more linear.

�The Midst of Chaos� could suggest greater turbulence, and while it�s the most exuberant track on the album, it�s a centered piece featuring Patitucci�s best solo of the set. Simon, while retaining his characteristically deft touch, is at his most intense while Blade�always a vibrant player�manages a unique combination of muscular power and refined elegance rarely experienced since Tony Williams passed away.

Frederic Mompu�s dark and brooding �Prelude N.9,� primarily a solo vehicle for Simon, allows him to surrender himself to the needs of the song. When Patitucci and Blade come in for just a third of the tune, their support is so understated that it�s more felt than heard�noticed more, in fact, when they leave Simon alone again at the song�s end.

Simon includes two versions of �Abiding Unicity.� The first is a free-flowing affair: a tone poem with fluid time. The reprise, equally open-ended, bears a stronger pulse and more clearly defined changes. Together they demonstrate how the same idea, approached perhaps only hours apart, can yield diametric results. Unicity may find Simon paring down his approach, but it also finds him sounding emotionally deeper and more compelling with each successive release.

- Allaboutjazz.com


It's remarkable to me the extent of tonal variety achieved by the contemporary jazz piano trio. And this thoroughly satisfying disc by Venezuelan jazz genius Edward Simon goes a long way toward demonstrating the truth of this observation.

We seem to be blessed with a plethora of first-rate piano trios, among the finest, in my opinion, being Frank Kimbrough, Jacky Terrasson, Jean-Michel Pilc, Taylor Eigsti, Vijay Iyer, Tord Gustavson, Jason Moran, Monty Alexander, Abdullah Ibrahim, Ahmad Jamal, and The Bad Plus. The Edward Simon Trio easily hangs with the very best of these. Simon, himself a deep and deft player, has chosen bandmates of the very highest order, John Patitucci (bass) and Eric Harland (drums). Together they engage in sparkling conversation, attractive personal statement, and fluid group improv.

Besides making a series of highly regarded solo albums, Patitucci has become one of the most in-demand session bassists in jazz today, being a member of Wayne Shorter's current quartet, for example. It's easy to see why: he gets a wonderfully rich tone from his acoustic bass, and is always interesting, sometimes even arresting, as a soloist. Evidence? Check out his solo on the title cut. And his arco playing on "Reprocess" sings with mystery and longing. Eric Harland is fast becoming one of the very top jazz drummers. Always deeply swinging (his approach completely locks in the vibe of "Azules," e.g.), he also brings a certain impossibly engaging infectuousness to everything he does. A listen to his mega-sophisticated work on the Dizzy classic, "Woody'n You," (also featuring a virtuoso upper-register Patitucci solo) seals the deal.

One of the most attractive aspects of this trio is their ability to move with complete fluidity between Latin and jazz sensibilities, brilliantly demonstrated by the aforementioned number, "Woody'n You." After establishing a groove-oriented Latin vibe, they shift, mid-tune, into a burning bop mode, completely pulverising the tune, and then back into a dancing Latin sensibility.

Really, if you have even the slightest affinity for Latin trio jazz, this is your record. By all means, check it out!

Reviewer: Jan P. Dennis (see more about me) from Monument, CO USA
- Amazon



The Process
Criss Cross Jazz
Simon (p); John Patittuci (b); Eric Harland (d).

I've admired Edward Simon's work for the past ten years. Venezuelan-born, he ended up in Philadelphia where Charles Faimbrough introduced him to people like Greg Osby (who used him on some M-Base projects) and Bobby Watson, who made him Horizon's permanent pianist for five years. His debut as a leader was in '93 on Audioquest (Beauty Within, with Anthony Jackson and Horacio "Negro" Hernandez), followed two years later by a fascinating CD for Herbie Mann's label Kokopelli label, alongside then up-and-coming musicians including Mark Turner, Larry Granedier, dam Cruz and Milton Cardona. Recently he's been a regular member of the Terence Blanchard groups. This new set for Gerry Teekens' Criss Cross is far and away the most mature and compelling of his albums to date. In fact, its one of the best piano trio CDs you're likely to hear this year. His style combines his Afro-Cuban approach with elements of Evans and Jarret in particular (though the opening "Navigator" has a strong Bud-Powell like theme). But he is definitely his own man here, with the accent on some really varied material (including totally reworked covers of "Woody 'n' You" and "I'm in the Mood for Love" and some exceptionally interesting original compositions. In fact, you feel that he is composing constantly, in every solo. There are two completely different approaches to the title piece "The Process" -the first in 3/4, the second ("Reprocess") in 4/4. There are also two versions of the 16-bar blues, "Azules". Patittuci is a powerhouse on this album. His newly acquired confidence since working with Wayne Shorter is evident throughout in the interplay as well as section and solo work. Harland's drums fit perfectly with the other two. An inspired and inspiring album, with superb sound from Max Bolleman.
- Jazz Review


Ed Simon:

One of the most respected and least recorded of the “young lions” who invigorated jazz at the cusp of the '90s, pianist Edward Simon spent the decade honing an approach that blended Latin, folkloric and mainstream jazz vocabularies coherently without, as Simon puts it, “sacrificing anything either end.”

“It's like Spanglish,” Simon jokes, referring to the aesthetic he shares with peers like Danilo Perez and David Sanchez. “It's not strictly Cuban or Brazilian or whatever form of ethnic music we're dealing with at the time. It's a jazz approach that considers those forms. It's like creating a new language. It's difficult to do, and very few can do it. I think this generation that came around when I did is the first with enough background and information and experience in the different styles and musical languages to do this.”

Such aspirations are part of the new jazz mainstream. But they seemed exotic in 1985, when Simon moved to Philadelphia from his home in Cardón, Venezuela. He studied classical music by day and supported himself nights and weekends on salsa dances and jazz jobs with bassist Charles Fambrough, a savvy alumnus of Art Blakey and McCoy Tyner. Guest soloists Greg Osby and Bobby Watson took notice, encouraged Simon to move to New York, and employed and recorded him once he took the plunge in 1988. So did Kevin Eubanks, Paquito D'Rivera and Herbie Mann. From 1994 until 2002, Simon worked steadily with Terence Blanchard, eschewing house-grabbing idiosyncracy for idiomatic team play. On down time, he approached recordings by conceptually ambitious contemporaries like John Pattituci, David Binney and Luciana Souza with a similar attitude.

“I just do the gigs and approach them the way I can,” Simon observes. “But I've made a conscious effort to address each style on its own terms. When I moved to New York, I realized that I needed to familiarize myself with as much history as I could. I
contributed compositions to Bobby and Terence, but always made an effort to write in a style that fit their overall repertoire, and placed my vision to the side.”

For an example of Simon's meticulous craft and musicality, hear Neruda [Sunnyside], a 2004 voice-piano duo by Souza and Simon on which the singer arranged settings for English translations of 10 poems of Pablo Neruda, drawing deeply on the Songs and Dances of Catalonian composer Federico Mompou.

“Ed was perfect for this project, because of his calmness and depth—and his touch, which is very precise and clear,” says Souza. “You can hear his intention in how he chooses to accent a line. He knows the attack, duration and decay of a note from the moment he presses on the piano, while other people might think more of ‘let me put it here on the beat.’ 98% of the music was written, with very little improvisation, and each time we play it, he takes it as a challenge: ‘How can I make it more beautiful?’ He finds something new every time.”

Imperatives of improvisation do, however, inform Simon's own tonal personality. His command of post-bop piano vocabulary is encyclopedic, and his structures incorporate intricate harmonies, sophisticated contrapuntal voicings, effervescent odd-metered rhythms, and the serene, melancholic melodies of Venezuelan folk music. He does not play for the house, takes his time, allows the flow to develop. These qualities mark both The Process [Criss-Cross], a 2002 trio performance with Patitucci and Eric Harland on which Simon blows more than is his custom, and this year’s Simplicity [Criss-Cross], a more compositionally oriented outing with drummer Adam Cruz, bassist Avishai Cohen, Souza, and guitarist Adam Rogers.

“The mood and character of Edward's pieces are almost palpable,” says Cruz, who first recorded with Simon on Edward Simon [Kokopelli], an obscure, critically acclaimed 1995 date with Mark Turner, another thinking man's improviser. “I always feel like they're asking me for an orchestration; the music is so thoughtful that to plow through it wouldn't make sense. His lines and ideas create their own momentum. And
his approach to odd meter is fresh and seamless, coming from angles that I probably haven't seen before.”

“I think jazz is eclectic,” says Simon, who recently relocated to the States after several years in Mallorca. “It welcomes other cultures, and it's developed improvisation to a higher level of sophistication than any other genre. Now, if you want to take a strict, classical attitude, you could say it's not jazz if it doesn't have blues and swing—and I can see why some people may not consider my music to be jazz. I respect that opinion, but I don't share it. For bilingual musicians, I think the possibilities for exploring these mixtures are endless.” - Downbeat


Discography

Edward Simon:

• Unicity (CAM Jazz, 2006)
• Simplicitas (Criss Cross, 2005)
• The Process (Criss Cross, 2003)
• La Bikina (Mythology,1998)
• Edward Simon (Kokopelli,1995)
• Beauty Within (AudioQuest,1994)

As a co-leader:

• Fiestas de Agosto (Red Records, 2005)
• Afinidad (David Binney and Edward Simon) (Red Records, 2001)

Influences:

Miles David, Egberto Gismonti, A. Ginastera, Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarret.

Photos

Bio

That same year he became a Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition finalist. Since then he has written extensively for the trio, using it as a platform for other projects and developing his unique compositional voice. In 1995 Edward received his first commission and composed Rumba Neurotica for the Relage Ensemble.

In recognition of his distinctive accomplishments, Chamber Music America awarded Edward Simon the New Works: Creation and Presentation grant to compose the Venezuelan Suite. In recognition for his outstanding work in jazz composition. In 2005, he received a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship. Simon has served as adjunct faculty at the University of the Arts and continues to teach clinics, seminars and workshops at music schools and universities around the world. Currently, he serves as adjunct faculty at The New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music in New York City. Simon has participated on more than forty recordings, including several Grammy nominated albums, lead by jazz greats such as Terence Blanchard, John Patitucci, Bobby Watson, and Herbie Mann among others and numerous soundtracks. He has produced seven critically acclaimed albums as a leader including two New York Times Top Ten jazz records of the year: Edward Simon (Kokopelli, 1994) and Simplicitas (Criss Cross, 2005). Today, Simon keeps himself busy writing for and leading his trio, Sexteto Venezuela, Afinidad - a quartet co-lead with long time collaborator saxophonist David Binney and Simon, Simon & Simon, a project co-lead with his two brothers. While he may be considered as part of a new generation of “multilingual” musicians which have grown up studying classical, jazz and Latin American music, Edward is inventing a language that transcends any rigid genre.