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Pianist Edward Simon's seventh CD as a leader is his best effort to date. On display are his gifts as an improviser, composer and arranger with two sympathetic partnersbassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. The entire CD has the feeling of a suite, rather than separate unrelated tracks that just happened to be recorded during the same session, even though the leader did not compose everything himself. The Venezuela-born pianist's light touch works in his favor as he restrains himself from excessive notes when just a few will suffice; likewise, his band mates are of the same mindset.
Simon performs Catalonian composer Frederic Mompou's haunting "Prelude No. 9 with minimal accompaniment, adding an improvised section and slightly modifying its time signature. His driving original "The Midst of Chaos is the best overall solo showcase for the musicians. The character of his hypnotic vamp in "Eastern is reminiscent of Keith Jarrett's concert improvisations of the mid '70s, with Blade's hand percussion adding a nice touch.
There are two versions of the pianist's brooding "Abiding Unicity. The initial rendition is more dramatic, enhanced by Patitucci's warm arco bass in its swirling introduction, with Simon's enchanting solo displaying subtlety, backed by Blade's stirring percussion. The reprise of the theme at the end of the CD is of a totally different character, with a more straight-ahead rhythm, retaining a bittersweet flavor while offering a degree of hope not heard on the initial take. Patitucci switches to electric bass and takes the lead for much of the ominous-sounding "Evolution, and also contributed the cheerfully post-bop "The Messenger. Piano trios rarely reach the heights of Unicity.
Track Listing: Invocation; The Messenger; Abiding Unicity; Gevriasolas; The Midst of Chaos; Prelude N.9; Pathless Path; Evolution; Eastern; Abiding Unicity (Reprise).
Personnel: Edward Simon: piano; John Patitucci: bass, electric bass; Brian Blade: drums.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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