Edward Simon, John Patitucci and Brian Blade did a few magical things on a 2003 album under Patitucci's name (Songs, Stories and Spirituals, Concord). At the time these three musicians decided that they ought to get together and do, well, what they do well here. After a minute's "Invocation," they're jamming heartily on Patitucci's "The Messenger," as if they'd met up overjoyed at three in the morning and were so accomplished they could do everything unbridled without disturbing a neighbour.
Simon's "Abiding Unicity" has an almost concert-room theme statement from Patitucci on bowed bass, and amazing impressionistic playing from the pianist, rising to the dramatic climax(es), and floating in the midst of calm sections. There's a sense of nobody having cared to make this too tidy a performanceit was spontaneous. Spontaneous is also the word for the empathic playing on Dave Binney's "Gavriasoloas," at slow-medium tempo and full of ideas and expression. Simon does not believe in just playing notes, he phrases, attacks, and means what he plays. To call Brian Blade's drumming magnificent is only fair.
Listen to the bassist solo on Simon's (I suppose cryptically titled) "The Midst of Chaos": joyous, like the pianist's subsequent trading of fours with the drummer. This splendid hard bop composition, played with a lot of colour, is followed by a prelude from the Catalan composer Frederic Mompou (1893-1987) with an alteration of time signature. Where some less than first-rate jazz pianists can stray into dull concert playing on ballads, Simon shares the capacity of the early stride pianists to stay in touch with both, even the several sides of his inspirationand animation.
His "Pathless Path" echoes Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" and also John Lewis's "Django," somewhere between the two, and then the pianist gets to accompany the front-line solo guitar Patitucci makes of his bass instrument on "Evolution": a naughty man, Patitucci, with those flamenco chords that nearly push the performance over the verge of out-of-tune then seem to set the pianist off in an inspired rush of solo inspiration. If Simon's "Evolution" is rather similar to his "Pathless Path," that's all to the good. The effect's cumulative, if in a different way from "Eastern," where the piano begins with a sort of Latin American rhapsody until the other guys' influence switches things oriental, taking the music about as far from mainstream jazz as Duke Ellington's Far East Suite.
This is very consistent music-making and through and through jazzany reference to other music is just something more. No chameleons here, and the reprise of "Abiding Unicity" is just like three guys come back on stage for an encore to celebrate.
Visit Edward Simon and John Patitucci on the web.
Personnel: Edward Simon: piano; John Patitucci: bass, electric bass; Brian Blade: drums.