Pianist Edward Simon immigrated to the United States from his native Venezuela while still in his teens. He stayed, and carved out a successful career in music. His fiftieth birthday rolled around, and the artist decided it was time to take a look and listen back. In a musical journey that spans the titular 25 Years, Simon has crafted a lot of music, employing a Latin/jazz/classical approach with a seemingly effortless refinement, making sounds that are unfailingly engaging and beautiful.
The two disc 25 Years comprises seventeen tunes culled from thirteen albums, beginning with "Caballo Viejo," from the 1995 album Edward Simon (Kokopelli Records), to "Triumphs," from Triumphs and Sorrows (Sunnyside Records, 2018). It covers the pianist's work with his piano trios, his teaming with saxophonist Mark Turner, in quartet and quintet, his collaborations with alto saxophonist David Binney, as well as his larger ensemble sets: Venezuelan Suite (Sunnyside, 2014) and Uninvited Thoughts (Sunnyside, 2018) are all here.
Simon's career started early, working with altoist Bobby Watson before moving on to a nine year run with trumpeter Terence Blanchard, leading to the blossoming of his own vision with albums like La Bikina (Mythology Records, 1998), Simplicitas (Criss Cross Jazz, 2005) and the magnificent Oceanos (Criss Cross Jazz, 2007). A fresh-ears spin through this two disc retrospective re-states Simon's acumen and elegance as a tunesmith and arranger. The challenge in compiling a multi decades look backfeaturing different line-ups and instrumentationsis maintaining an artistic cohesion. Simon achieves this through his deft sequencing combined with an extraordinarily focused, time-spanning artistic vision, from the quartet offering "Alma Llanera" with saxophonist Turner, to the fifteen minute "Pathless Path" featuring the trio with bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade, through the closing nonet tune "Impossible Question."
The problem with squeezing a quarter century of work onto just two discs is: a lot of very good things get left out. An investigation of the albums from which the music was chosen could deservedly encourage further explorations.
CD 1: Erika; Alma Llanera; Govinda; Fiestas; Simplicity; Pathless Path; Pere; Impossible Question.
CD 2: What If?; Aguantando; Caballo Viejo; Barinas; Uninvited Thoughts; Navigator; Gracias A La Vida; Venezuela Unida; Triumphs.