Fred Simon

Since Forever

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Chicago keyboardist Fred Simon has languished in obscurity since the 1970s, choosing to stay close to home, recording on occasion, and keeping the flame of jazz-fusion music alive while also exploring introspective piano in modern jazz contexts. With Since Forever, Simon is in a reflective, contemplative mood as he pays homage to friends and influences who have passed away. Always an excellent, sensitive, and passionate player, Simon sits at the acoustic Steinway piano exclusively for these musical portraits dedicated to fellow humane beings, aided by longtime Chi-Town helpmates -- bassist Steve Rodby and drummer Mark Walker. Paul McCandless rounds out the quartet, most positively identifying the spiritual mood, generally on soprano sax, English horn, or oboe. Simon's piano playing is understated, but goes deeper into the soul for his original, organic compositions that sport equal elements of soil, fiber, and sky. Of the musical testimonials, "Even in the Evening" -- in tribute to his late sister Deborah -- uses a sorrowful, repeat minimalist line, "More Often Than Not" for Patti McKenny is a pretty, childlike song, wistful within a stair-step melody, and "Simple Psalm" is a revisited piece from an old Windham Hill recording Simon did many years ago, as double-time drumming from Walker is parsed against the slower piano and double reed of McCandless. There's a short, meditative version of the epic introduction only to "In a Silent Way" via its authors Miles Davis and Joe Zawinul, while the title selection, a waltz to 4/4 soul song, is for the great folk legend Pete Seeger. The consistency of moods -- neither too high nor too low -- permeates this recording -- making it perfect to be listened to early in the morning or late at night. The sentiment of "No War Nowhere" is not demanding, but reflects the passage of time and remembrance, with hope for change in its easy clockwork rhythm as tapped out by Walker. A more spirited and uplifting 6/8 meter identifies "I Know You Know" with the vocal-toned, singing, signature soprano of McCandless parasailing overhead, while "Beginning/Middle/End" is a closing thematic string suite that is reverent, activated, then hymnal. As you listen, you realize how typical this music might be, even idiosyncratic. Nonetheless, it's quite beautiful and heartfelt, with an emotional range and empathetic quality that these four expert contemporary jazz musicians always bring to the forefront. With few recordings from Fred Simon, it's good to hear his music for the finespun yet cogent perspective he brings to it. If you are familiar with his work, you should not be disappointed with this finely crafted, common sense, colorful effort, a tonic for the rat race blues and crazed rhetoric we are bombarded with every day.

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