Edward Simon – Sorrows & Triumphs
(SSC1511. CD review by Rob Adams)
Venezuelan-born pianist Edward Simon marshals the combined forces of his Afinidad quartet (featuring alto saxophonist David Binney, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade), the Imani Winds chamber quintet and special guests, vocalist Gretchen Parlato, guitarist Adam Rogers and two percussionists, with a superbly light touch on this album that captures the titular sorrows and triumphs with subtlety, nuance and beautiful textures.
The eight tracks are drawn from two suites, shuffled into a new order with the opening Incessant Desires to form a work that has its own narrative beginning with bright optimism borne on Blade’s lightly propulsive drumming and closing with the quiet, hymn-like Rebirth with Parlato’s yearning taken up by Colley’s excellent soloing.
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In between, Simon gives his soloists room to express themselves over and through carefully plotted ensemble passages and dynamically varied rhythms. Rogers and Binney both play with terrific fluency and articulation and Parlato’s confiding tone on the wordless Equanimity and the gently pulsing Chant makes both pieces quickly memorable.
A bassoon-led wind section figure and jagged piano chords introduce Venezuela Unida’s tumbling ensemble which gives way to Simon’s strong soloing over locomotive-like rhythm and repetition, a device that calls to mind Steve Reich, as does Triumphs with its itchy piano and train whistle effect.
All in all, a very accessible, enjoyable album whose transfer onto the concert stage would, I’m sure, be a very interesting experience, if one that might require a small financial miracle on this side of the pond.