This project by pianist Edward Simon blends together many diverse elements. The music combines classical formalism with jazz energy and is performed by a combination of Simon's jazz quartet, Afinidad, and the woodwind quintet, Imani Winds, with some guest musicians added in. The compositions themselves are movements of two separate suites written by Simon, "Sorrows And Triumphs," inspired by Buddhist philosophy, and "House Of Numbers," inspired by numerology, rearranged into a cohesive set of music. The end result of all this is an exhilarating swirl of rhythms and ideas.
"Incessant Desires" sounds like an orchestral arrangement of a Pat Metheny theme, with saxophonist David Binney and vocalist Gretchen Parlato stabbing and tumbling over a darting melody laid down by the woodwinds and rhythm section. "Equanimity" is a lusher and more relaxed take on a similar sound, with Parlato's cooing murmur pushed even more into the spotlight alongside Adam Rogers' supple guitar. "Uninvited Thoughts" creates a tension between revolving flute and oboe figures and Simon's repeated piano notes that sounds like a Philip Glass passage before Simon breaks into a dancing solo driven beautifully by Brian Blade's drums. "Triumph" has a similar urgency in its compressed racing rhythm and eventually leads to Simon and Parlato breaking out in explosive solo turns.
Several pieces on the CD are more overly jazzy. "Triangle" features the woodwinds sparking and twirling over an insistent Latin groove laid down by Afinidad and extra percussionist Luisito Quintero while "Venezuela Unida" has them arcing over a percolating Latin rhythm that sounds like a variant of Gil Evanss' "Time Of The Barracudas" before Simon comes in with a fleet-fingered, blues-infused piano solo. Perhaps the high point of the entire project is "Chant," which opens with Simon playing electric piano in a slow march tempo and has Parlato singing lyrics in an emotional whisper echoed by Binney's alto. It's a gradually expanding ballad of devastating beauty that climaxes with an authoritative bass solo by Scott Colley and mesmerizing scat singing intertwined with flute and piano.
This is majestic, lush music put together with intelligence and emotional depth. Simon writes as profoundly as Maria Schneider and fits a lot of disparate musical elements together with imagination. He also has the good fortune of working with excellent musiciansespecially Gretchen Parlato, who sounds amazing here. This is one of 2018's finest musical achievements so far.
Edward Simon: piano, keyboards; David Binney: alto saxophone; Scott Colley: bass; Brian Blade: drums; Gretchen Parlato: vocals; Adam Rogers: guitars; Rogerio Boccato: percussion (tracks 3, 7); Luis Quintero: percussion (tracks 2, 4, 6); Imani WInds-Valerie Coleman: flute; Toyin Spellman-Diaz: oboe; Monica Ellis: bassoon; Mark Dover: clarinet; Jeff Scott: French horn.
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