[JPL] Flowing and Intricate, With a Toe in Many Styles

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Sat Feb 16 15:27:03 EST 2008

February 14, 2008
Music Review
Flowing and Intricate, With a Toe in Many Styles 
The pianist Edward Simon reconciles a few different
agendas in his music, borrowing judiciously from
classical impressionism, post-bop modality and the
folk music of his native Venezuela. He’s careful with
his calibration of these and other influences, but the
effort doesn’t feel belabored. In his first set on
Tuesday night at the Village Vanguard, his debut there
as a leader, he projected flowing ease along with a
canny sense of drama.

Mr. Simon wasn’t alone in creating this feeling. His
trio includes the bassist John Patitucci and the
drummer Brian Blade, who have clocked meaningful time
together in the Wayne Shorter Quartet. A couple of
years ago Mr. Simon enlisted the same sterling rhythm
team for an album called “Unicity” (Cam Jazz). On some
level these musicians’ Vanguard run is preparation for
a sequel, which they are scheduled to record later
this week. 

A few pieces in the set were episodic, packed with
cozy spaces for solo elaboration. “Abiding Unicity”
began as a showcase for Mr. Patitucci, who bowed his
bass with mournful ardor and then moved on to an
impressively nimble pizzicato. What came next was an
open-ended solo piano interlude. Mr. Simon made
expressive use of his sustain pedal, so that even his
more dissonant runs suggested a ripple instead of a

Mr. Simon’s resourcefulness as a composer often
involves some aspect of rhythm: he uses fluctuating
tempos or asymmetrical vamps as a means of advancing
his plot. On the arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie’s
“Woody ’n You” that closed the set, he had the trio
repeatedly shift gears — from polyrhythmic 12/8 to
fluttering waltz time to express-lane 4/4 swing —
before clearing an open space for Mr. Blade, whose
dazzling and supple improvisation stealthily traced
the form of the song. There were similar twists and
turns on “Impossible Question”; here Mr. Blade was let
loose over an ostinato in 9/4 meter. 

Yet intricacy wasn’t the only mode of the set, which
began with an untitled new piece with a
straightforward post-bop feel, and elsewhere included
a tune by Mr. Patitucci in tribute to the tenor
saxophonist Joe Henderson. Swinging hard may not be
Mr. Simon’s strong suit — he has a way of skating over
a groove rather than digging in — but he played with
crisp assurance, and his bandmates threw themselves
into the task. 

They sounded just as committed to their purpose on
“Pathless Path,” an exercise in static harmony and
gradual exposition. And as it does on “Unicity,”
“Path” followed a somber but engrossing rendition of
“Prelude No. 9,” by the Catalan composer Frederic
Mompou. Mr. Simon played that melody in a ruminative
cadence and with only the slightest and most
respectful of variations. 

Edward Simon performs through Sunday at the Village
Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South, at 11th Street,
West Village; (212) 255-4037, villagevanguard.com.


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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