David Binney/Edward Simon: Afinidad (2001)
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 compositionregardless of the contextwithin 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 musiche's a Venezuelan by birthwith 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.
Track Listing: Red; Civil War; Pere; Aguantando; Vidala; Sadness; Mi Querencia; Simplicity; Reflecting; Red Reprise; Remembrance.
Personnel: David Binney: alto sax; Edward Simon: piano; Scott Colley: bass; Brian Blade: drums; Adam Cruz: percussion; Lucia Pulido: voice; Adam Rogers: guitar.