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Randy Simon Jazz Project: Nyhavn Live

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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As instrumentalists and established groups explore new musical vistas, there's somewhat of a "safe harbor" in the richness of classic hard bop. Perhaps that's because the repertoire and stylistic formats of drummer Art Blakey and the The Jazz Messengers, pianist Horace Silver and the like offer performers significant latitude in terms of groove, melodic and harmonic diversity, and muscular platforms from which to launch improvisational expression.

With NYHAVN Live (pronounced "Neye-HAH-vin," a reference to a Copenhagen waterway), composer/arranger Randy Simon and the superb players of his Randy Simon Jazz Project hark back to an era where robust, infectious melodies were created and historic improvisations ensued. There's that engaging element and more to this recording: it's classic—but stands on its own significant merit—and swings. And it does so, having been recorded live.

Using a traditional two-horn frontline and rhythm section, the quintet of first-class Albany, NY-area musicians moves with great drive across eleven Simon originals. A former physicist who came to jazz composition late, Simon's writing chops are superb. His well-studied pen is steeped deeply in the '60s genre and channels—but does not cloy at—the aforementioned greats. His melodies are intelligent, virile, and memorable—a mainstay of the genre. Rhythmically, he offers Latin and other grooves that spin thoughtful modal tonalities.

Highly imaginative trumpeter/flugelhornist Dylan Canterbury pieces together lengthy, well-engineered solos that build in momentum and belie his age (24). His introduction to "Soaring" is gorgeously expressive over Lindquist's beautiful impressionist underlays. Saxophonist Kevin Barcomb bears both Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter influences in an engaging, lyrical style. Pianist Rob Lundquist beautifully interprets the Latin-tinged "Season to Taste" and just about everything on the date. The rhythm section of John Menegon and Danny Welchel parlays to provide a rock-solid foundation, ever infusing gas on the fire. Together, this group is indeed a conflagration of talent.

NYHAVN Live is an outstanding performance by a group of terrific musicians and a composer of significant talent and potential. Now that's Natural Law for this—another "Night of the Cookers."

Track Listing: Cultural Exchange; Gold Standard; Glide; Climber; Season to Taste; Questions; Another Interlude; Foothills; Nyhavn; Soaring; Keep Walking.

Personnel: Rob Lindquist: piano; Dylan Canterbury: trumpet; flugelhorn; Kevin Barcomb: saxophones; John Menegon: bass; Danny Whelchel: drums.

Title: Nyhavn Live | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Self Produced

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