David Binney and Edward Simon: Further Explorations

C. Michael Bailey By

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David Binney and Edward Simon have been very busy men. Their names are splashed copiously within these pages, both separately and together. Separately and most recently, Binney, a multi-reedist who concentrates on alto saxophone, released Cities and Desires, and pianist Simon Unicity. Together, the two musicians have a history beginning with Red Records' 2005 release Afinadad.

Considered here are two recent collaborations by the artists that present their playing both as a duet and as part of a larger group. The albums offer a jazz avant-garde compositional contrast to the classical avant-garde flavored material of artists like pianist Yitzhak Yedid.

David Binney & Edward Simon
Criss Cross

Oceanos is the most recent of these recordings. It is most closely related to the previous Binney/Simon recording Afinadad, which employed an almost the identical lineup (guitarist Adam Rogers, percussionist Adam Cruz and vocalist Lucia Pulido). On Oceanos, Luciana Souza replaces Pulido and the group adds trumpeters Shane Endsley and Jesse Newman, trombonist Alan Ferber and percussionist Pernell Saturnino. Where Binney and Simon began their assertive exploration of Latin rhythms on Afinadad, they confidently stake out the frontier on Oceanos.

The collection of original compositions that make up Oceanos could be described as angular hypnosis, characterized by extended, complex repeating figures propelled by para-Latin rhythms. This is particularly true of the Binney compositions "We Dream Oceans and "El Parrandero. The former is an up tempo exercise for ensemble playing characterized by Simon's repeating piano figures and Binney's perpendicular melodic figures. The latter is the most overt Latin sound of the recording, made so by Pernell Saturnino's urgent percussion.

The Simon compositions, "Impossible Question and "Govinda, also deal with complex figures. "Impossible Question has a dreamy piano introduction interrupted again by perpendicular figures by Binney and band that act in contrast to what Simon is doing. "Godvina is balladic with a quiet, movie soundtrack-like quality accentuated by Souza's wordless vocals. The overall effect is music with the freedom to breathe, lacking the rigidity of so much classical avant-garde composing. Improvisation is the plasticizer in this music.

Edward Simon & David Binney
Fiestas De Agosto
Red Records

Fiestas De Agosto is a duet recording augmented by the considerable talent of reedman Donny McCaslin on one track. Consisting entirely of originals, save for "I Hear A Rhapsody (which sticks out like a speed metal solo at a folk festival), the album offers compositional wares similar to those presented by Simon and Binney on Oceanos, but in a skeletal fashion.

Of the two recordings, it is this one that most effectively provides a compositional contrast to Yitzhak Yedid's recent recordings, Reflections Upon Six Images and Myth of the Cave. The most effective fusion of jazz and classical music occurs at the interface of the avant-garde of each genre. Yedid's compositions are tautly conceived and expressed; they reflect careful consideration to the detail of process at the expense of improvisation. The compositions making up Fiestas De Agosto, while themselves carefully considered, allow for more dense improvisatory explorations, making the music more pliant and enjoyable.

Simon and Binney have a very strong musical empathy and these discs offer two distinct and distinguished glimpses of their interactions. Continued collaboration can only benefit jazz and its listeners.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: We Dream Oceans; Impossible Question; Amnesia; El Parrandero; Govinda; Twenty Four Miles To Go; Impossible Question Reprise; Home.

Personnel: David Binney: alto saxophone; Edward Simon: piano; Scott Colley: bass; Brian Blade: drums; Luciana Souza: vocals; Adam Rogers: guitar; Shane Endsley: trumpet; Jesse Newman: trumpet; Alan Ferber: trombone; Pernell Saturnino: percussion.

Fiestas De Agosto

Tracks: Dawn Of Indifference; Fiestas; Coast Of The Desert; Ask The Dust; True To Life; August; Moment; Unknown Path; I Hear A Rhapsody; Immersion; True To Life (Reprise); When You Return; Lifelong.

Personnel: David Binney: reeds; Edward Simon: piano; Donny McCaslin: additional reeds.


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