While he may be considered as part of a new generation of "multilingual" musicians which have grown up studying classical, jazz and Latin American music, Edward is inventing a language that transcends any rigid genre.
The process by which Simon became an internationally regarded jazz musician began in the small coastal town of Cardón, Venezuela, where he grew up surrounded by the sounds of Latin and Caribbean music. Born in 1969, Simon credits his father, Hadsy, for developing his passion for music and supporting him and his two brothers, Marlon and Michael, to become professional musicians.
He attended the Philadelphia Performing Arts School, graduating at 15, then received a music scholarship from the University of the Arts where he studied classical music with concert pianist Susan Starr. Later he transferred to the Manhattan School of Music where he studied jazz piano with Harold Danko.
Upon arriving on the New York jazz scene in 1989, his reputation as a pensive, rhythmically astute, versatile player caught the ear of noted musicians Greg Osby, Jerry Gonzalez, Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Mann, Kevin Eubanks and Paquito D’Rivera, all of who would later employ him. In 1989 Simon took the piano chair in Bobby Watson’s influential group Horizon (1989-94), later moving to the Terence Blanchard Group (1994-2002).
Simon made his first recording as a leader in 1994 (Beauty Within, Audioquest), giving birth to the Edward Simon Trio–- the same year he took third place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. Since then he has founded, established and served as musical director of several jazz ensembles such as: the Edward Simon Quartet, Ensemble Venezuela and Afinidad. Today, the Edward Simon Trio has become an established voice with five recordings and recent performances at such well-known jazz venues as the Village Vanguard, Jazz Bakery and Casa del Jazz.
Fueled by a strong desire to break boundaries through improvised music, in 2000 Simon co-founded the quartet Afinidad with saxophonist/composer David Binney, which includes bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio Sanchez. Afinidad's mission is to create and perform eclectic contemporary American music with a focus on jazz, reflecting a wide range of musical influences such as Pop, Brazilian, Latin American and contemporary classical music. With this ensemble he produced two critically acclaimed recordings: Afinidad (Red Records, 2001) and Oceanos (Criss Cross, 2007). In 2008, Chamber Music America awarded Simon a New Works: Creation and Presentation Program grant (2008-09) to compose and present Sorrows and Triumphs, a work for Afinidad and special guest artists guitarist Adam Rogers, vocalist Gretchen Parlato and percussionist Rogerio Boccato.
At the same time, Simon has become increasingly interested in the folk music of his native land. In 2003 he founded Ensemble Venezuela, an outlet for exploring the marriage between jazz and Venezuelan music through new works and arrangements of works by Venezuelan masters. Two years later he was awarded a second grant from Chamber Music America to compose and perform the Venezuelan Suite, a work that crosses the barriers between jazz, chamber music and Venezuelan folk music. Considered by some to be his most important work to date, the Venezuelan Suite inspired the creation of a series of abstract paintings by artist Ellen Priest: Jazz Paintings on Paper: Improvisations on the Venezuela Suite.
Simon has received Fellowships in Music Composition from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (2005), the State of Florida (2007) and the New York Foundation for the Arts (2008).
He has served as faculty at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, the City College of New York and the University of the Arts. He has taught master classes and clinics at music conservatories and universities around the world and continues to teach piano and improvisation at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. He has been honored on two different occasions (1999, 2004) for this work with a Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Service to Jazz Education from the International Association for Jazz Education. In 2008 Simon had the rare opportunity to share his knowledge and experience with fellow Venezuelans. Thanks to a grant from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and The U.S. Department of State, he was a visiting professor at the Instituto Universitario de Estudios Musicales in Caracas, Venezuela.
Simon has recorded 10 critically acclaimed albums as leader, including two New York Times Top Ten Jazz Records of the Year: Edward Simon (1995) and Simplicitas (2005). He has appeared as guest artist on more than 50 recordings, including Paquito D'Rivera's Grammy Award winning Funk Tango (Best Latin Jazz Album, 2007) and several Grammy Award nominated albums.
His performing career spans 20 years of international touring as pianist with prominent artists and ensembles. His recent collaborations include Don Byron, Miguel Zenon, Luciana Souza, Paquito D’Rivera and John Patitucci.
He is currently a member of the San Francisco Jazz Collective, a prominent musician/composer jazz ensemble dedicated to creating new work and highlighting the music of historically significant jazz composers of the modern era. The Collective is comprised of “eight of the most in-demand” (New York Times) artists performing today.
My Jazz Story
I love jazz because it is the only art form that requires a high level interaction between all members of an ensemble and audience.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was about 10 years old. I saw a video recording of Nancy Reagan's birthday celebration at the White House which included performances by jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz.
I met Dizzy when I was about 18. I was living in Philadelphia at the time and playing gigs with local bands. We got to open for Dizzy in a club somewhere in New Jersey I believe. He had Sam Rivers playing with him at the time, along with Ignacio Berroa and John Lee. It was to great to see him live, what a entertainer he was!
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny Group. The combination of the great writing, playing and awesome light show made for such an unforgettable experience.
My advice to new listeners is to try to listen to jazz in a live setting, as I believe that is the best way to experience it. Try listening to different artists, as you may find at a certain period of your life you may not care for or understand a particular artist - even though he may be considered a jazz great - and find that you grow to appreciate him or her later in your life.
Or whatever else you have in mind.