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La Bikina is pianist Edward Simon's 1998 release on the relatively new Mythology Records label. A native of Venezuela, Simon made a big splash on the North American jazz scene with saxophonist Bobby Watson's band during the late 1980's. Simon has also toured and recorded as a much in demand sideman with trombonist Robin Eubanks, saxophonist Greg Osby and trumpeter Terence Blanchard. La Bikina features the saxophones of David Binney and Mark Turner and an equally adept supporting cast.
Simon's composition "Uncertainty" features an underlying Latin feel heightened by Simon's lush phrasing and rhythmic left hand on the keys which emits an air of relaxed tension. The thematic movement here is gradual yet probing. Simon's multi-dimensional approach lends itself well while soloing in clusters, which places emphasis on chord progressions, speedy single note runs and bounds of melody. Drummer/percussionist Adam Cruz utilizes the Pans to add color and balance to this engaging tune while David Binney (alto sax) and Mark Turner (tenor sax) spin out some nice choruses. "Uncertainty" presents a festive atmosphere. Thoughts of sipping frozen margaritas near a beach come to mind. "The Process" is somewhat of a lamentable ballad, which is a showcase for Simon's keen sense of compositional development while hearty melodic content resurfaces. Simon is particularly skillful at maintaining the listener's interest.
The title cut is an extended piece featuring soft y! et pronounced horn charts from Binney, Turner and trumpeter Diego Urcola. Here, Simon's interplay is reminiscent of Bill Evans for its nuance and utilization of harmonics. Various Latin motifs work there way in which may include celebrating the triumphant bullfighter or, perhaps, a festive parade. The pace heats up and much credit goes to drummer Adam Cruz who serves as the catalyst with a prominent, driving beat. Cruz is non-obtrusive yet a major player throughout this recording. Lessons to be learned for many a drummer who tend to dominate as opposed to keeping time with flair and sensibility. Cruz is a skilled veteran and it shows.
"La Bikina" evolves nicely with some burning solos from Binney and Turner and features a pleasing and memorable melodic hook. Easily the highlight of the CD which is saying quite a bit. Folks, there is no filler material on this recording. Simon has a nice pen and his arrangements are imaginative and top notch. La Bikina is a jubilant celebration and yet another fine production from Mythology Records. Recommended.
Personnel: Edward Simon: piano, arrangements, composer; Adam Cruz: drums, pans, percussion; Ben Street: bass; Mark Turner: tenor sax; David Binney: alto Sax; Pernel Saturnino: percussion; Diego Urcola: trumpet; Milton Cardona: vocals.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.