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 Souzawho also adds wordless vocals to the impressionistic, ECM-informed Simon piece, "Unknown Path"and Irish saxophonist Michael Buckleywhose melancholic hymnal, "South Facing," is a highlight of the album, demonstrating Simon's undivided attention to the nuances of and between every noteSimon has created a set where the songs flow forward with a distinct sense of purpose.
While Simon reveals clear roots in all the usual suspectsEvans, Hancock, Jarretthe 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 specialwhether 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 Cruzthat 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.
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Personnel: Edward Simon: piano; Avishai Cohen: bass; Adam Cruz; drums, steel drums; Lucian a Souza: vocals (7); Adam Rogers: guitars (7, 11); Pernell Saturnino: percussion (1, 6, 8).