How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The Randy Simon Jazz Project is a collection of some of Upstate New York's best and brightest jazz luminaries, all brought together to play the music of the titular Simon. Simon's compositions and arrangements are extraordinary. Complex yet completely accessible, he paints dazzling portraits in sound, creating perfect launching points for his soloists. Light It Up, Simon's fourth album since 2008, continues a run of exceptional albums that present modern jazz at its best. The performers on this album are master craftsmen who bring Simon's compositions to life through skillful interaction and powerful solos.
Simon, who came to music relatively late in life, has proven a musical force with which to be reckoned. Each composition has its own character, evoking a specific style of modern jazz. For example, "Switchbacks" is swinging Art Blakey
-like unison horn lines; and "Leafing Out" is gentle, flute-driven, and pastoral in a manner that wouldn't sound out of place on Bobbi Humphries album from the early '70s. Yet at no time does Simon dabble in mere pastiche. His compositions betray his wide listening without compromising his originality.
Each track presents the musicians in different instrumental combinations with varying textures and top notch performances. The rhythm sectionpianist Adrian Cohen
and drummer Danny Whelchelkeeps things moving with its subtle interplay. Cohen, in particular, is one of the Capital region's best jazz soloists, and his contributions to this album maintain his high standards. Pete Bellino turns in some truly inspired solos, especially his flugelhorn solo on "Let Me Tell You." Paul Borrello's vibes are warm and gentle, enlivening each of the four tracks on which he appears. Kevin Barcomb does triple duty, performing on both tenor and soprano saxophones, as well as contributing delicate flute to the aforementioned "Leafing Out." Light It Up proves, once again, that great jazz is being made outside of New York City.
Track Listing: You Shouldn't Do That; Light It Up; Taking Wing; Getting Warmer; Counterflow; Switchbacks; Leafing Out; Let Me Tell You; Keep Walking; Saratoga (Through The Years).
Personnel: Randy Simon: composer, arranger, piano (10); Adrian Cohen: piano; John Menegon: bass; Pete Bellino: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kevin Barcomb: tenor, soprano saxophone, flute; Paul Borrello: vibes; Danny: Whelchel, drums.