Ralph Simon and Magic Club: Music for the Millennium
As a soprano saxophonist, Ralph Simon gets quite a bit of mileage out of briefly stated yet imperturbable phrasing while possessing near flawless intonation. On his composition titled, “The Ballad Quartet will Now Play”, Simon goes head to head with famed pianist Paul Bley who also shares some of the synth chores on this recording. Here, Simon executes affable yet fragile passages over swirling motifs and free-jazz style drumming from fellow Postcards recording artist, Bruce Ditmas (see Nov’99 AAJ reviews). On this piece, Bley utilizes choral-vocal midi patches to round out the background tonalities; however, these sounds become a bit too prominent in the mix toward the finale, yet ...only a minor beef. Simon’s multi-part “Suite First Take” features the great trombonist and “Postcards” charter member Julian Priester along with the estimable bassist Gary Peacock and others as Simon directs the band through dialogues that may suggest hybrid world – free jazz stylizations complimented by weaving, multi-tonal and temporal passages. Keith Jarrett’s “Windsong” is a duet featuring Simon and bassist Gary Peacock as Simon’s lyrically rich and earnest phrasing seems to emanate from within the soul as if here were in a meditative or spiritual trance. A soft interpretation of Miles Davis’ classic “Blue and Green” closes out this interesting set as Simon bridges the gap between mainstream/free jazz along with otherworldly themes and disparate modal developments.
Music for the Millennium is befitting as we count down the days to Y2K - Simon’s slightly futuristic vision works well, while exhibiting a unique stylistic approach which may in fact become more commonplace as music of this ilk progresses into the 21st Century. * * * 1/2
Ralph Simon; Soprano Saxophone, Breath-Controlled Synthesizers: Paul Bley; Piano & Synthesizer: Gary Peacock; Bass: Julian Priester; Trombone: Bruce Ditmas; Drums & synthesizers: Alan Pasqua; Piano (track 11): Jeff Berman; Vibes: Tom Boyer; Percussion & Synthesized Percussion: Elizabeth Panzer; Harp: Michael DiSibio; Trumpet (coda of track 11)
Record Label: Postcards
Style: Modern Jazz