All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Multiple Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

215

Norman Simmons 2000-2004

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Norman Simmons
The Art of Norman Simmons (2000)
Synthesis (2002)
In Private (2004)
Savant Records

Better late than never. Listening to these impressive sessions by pianist Norman Simmons and his sundry companions, spanning the years 2000-2004, the thought occurs that it would be a shame if such talented musicians as he were never recorded at all. I'd not heard of Simmons but learned from perusing the liner notes that he has been playing professionally for more than half a century, starting in Chicago and later moving to New York, and that he has performed with such legendary artists as Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray, among others, and accompanied an array of top-rank vocalists that includes Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, Anita O'Day, Dakota Staton and Joe Williams, to whom the tender ballad "Joe" (on The Art of Norman Simmons ) is dedicated.

What I learned from actually listening to Simmons is that he is a master craftsman along the lines of a Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, Kenny Barron or James Williams, an impeccable accompanist who swings hard in any context, and a remarkably perceptive soloist with an elegant touch, explicit command of the keyboard and an abundance of imaginative ideas to impart. He's also an accomplished writer, as he shows on each of these engaging albums with such shapely and soulful compositions as "Joe," "Stiffed," "6 AM," "Georgia's in Town," "Winter's Gone," "Roscoe Franbro" and "Sushi Yama Blues."

The most recent outing, In Private, showcases Simmons in a trio setting (Lisle Atkinson, bass; Paul Humphrey, drums), while the earlier two ( Synthesis, The Art of Norman Simmons ) are enhanced by the presence of young tenor star Eric Alexander who never delivers a false note and is typically brilliant from stem to stern, port to starboard. Another Chicagoan, guitarist Henry Johnson, excels on The Art, as do bassist Paul West and drummer Paul Wells. On Synthesis, Simmons, Alexander and Johnson are ably supported by Atkinson and Wells with percussionist Kevin Jones helping spice up the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" and Simmons' "Ramira the Dancer."

As a Chicagoan, Simmons is steeped in the blues, and opens each of these albums with a candid example of same — "I'm Your Boogie Man" ( The Art ), "Georgia's in Town" ( Synthesis ) and "Sushi Yama" ( In Private ). "Town," of course, is Simmons' astute variation on "Sweet Georgia Brown" and embodies heated solos by Johnson, Alexander and the maestro. In his diligent search for the proper song, Simmons draws from a wide range of sources including the Beatles ("Here, There and Everywhere," the aforementioned "Eleanor Rigby"), Billy Strayhorn ("A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing," "Something to Live For," an uncharacteristically upbeat version of "Lush Life"), Juan Tizol ("Caravan"), Victor Young/Ned Washington ("Stella by Starlight"), Earle Hagen ("Harlem Nocturne"), Alan and Marilyn Bergman ("How Do You Keep the Music Playing"), Johnny Burke/Jimmy van Heusen ("It Could Happen to You") and even Fredric Chopin ("Waltz," the closing number on In Private ). The "Waltz" is preceded by a medley of Luiz Bonfa's lively "Manha de Carnaval," set in motion by Atkinson's eloquent arco passage, and the equally rhythmic and charming "Recado Bossa Nova."

Simmons is a seasoned and resourceful mainstream pianist, and if you are unfamiliar with his work, as I was, any of these three arresting albums is a wonderful introduction to his consummate artistry.


The Art Of Norman Simmons

Tracks: I'm Your Boogie Man; Joe; There Are Such Things; My Silent Love; Stiffed; Harlem Nocturne; 6 AM; The Hour of Parting; Medley: I'm Getting Sentimental Over You, Roscoe Franbro (71:43).

Personnel: Norman Simmons, piano; Eric Alexander, (1-3, 5-7, 9), tenor saxophone; Henry Johnson, guitar; Paul West, bass; Paul Wells, drums.

Synthesis

Tracks: Georgia's in Town; Here There and Everywhere; Eleanor Rigby; Winter's Gone; Lush Life; A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing; Something to Live For; Ramira the Dancer; No More; You're My Thrill (57: 46).

Personnel: Norman Simmons, piano; Eric Alexander (1, 3-5, 7, 8), tenor saxophone; Henry Johnson (1, 3-8, 10), guitar; Lisle Atkinson (1-8, 10), bass; Paul Wells (1-8, 10), drums; Kevin Jones (3, 8), percussion.

In Private

Tracks: Sushi Yama Blues; Stella by Starlight; My Melancholy Baby; It Could Happen to You; How Am I to Know; Caravan; Soft Wind; How Do You Keep the Music Playing; Medley: Manha de Carnaval, Recado Bossa Nova; Chopin Waltz (64:35).

Personnel: Norman Simmons, piano; Lisle Atkinson, bass; Paul Humphrey, drums.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Multiple Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
 

The Art Of Norman...

Savant Records
2000

buy
 

13th Moon

Not On Label (Norman (15) Self-released)
1986

buy

Related Articles

Read Jazzing Up Childhood Memories Multiple Reviews
Jazzing Up Childhood Memories
by Jerome Wilson
Published: April 4, 2018
Read The Art of the Quintet: Voro Garcia and Magnus Thuelund Multiple Reviews
The Art of the Quintet: Voro Garcia and Magnus Thuelund
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: April 2, 2018
Read The Eclectic Sounds of ears&eyes Multiple Reviews
The Eclectic Sounds of ears&eyes
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: March 27, 2018
Read Iain Matthews: Redefining Eclectic Multiple Reviews
Iain Matthews: Redefining Eclectic
by Doug Collette
Published: March 24, 2018
Read Minimalist Guitar: Clouds and Dreams Multiple Reviews
Minimalist Guitar: Clouds and Dreams
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 23, 2018
Read A Selection of Jazz on Sonorama Multiple Reviews
A Selection of Jazz on Sonorama
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: March 18, 2018
Read "Jazz from the US Virgin Islands' new breed" Multiple Reviews Jazz from the US Virgin Islands' new breed
by Nigel Campbell
Published: November 4, 2017
Read "Minimalist Guitar: Clouds and Dreams" Multiple Reviews Minimalist Guitar: Clouds and Dreams
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 23, 2018
Read "The Art of the Duo: Keys and Reeds" Multiple Reviews The Art of the Duo: Keys and Reeds
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 11, 2018
Read "Old, Borrowed and Just a Little Blue" Multiple Reviews Old, Borrowed and Just a Little Blue
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 11, 2017
Read "A Sense of Place" Multiple Reviews A Sense of Place
by Geno Thackara
Published: October 12, 2017