Little-known saxophonist Ken Simon attractively straddles the line between hard bop and the avant-garde, as evidenced by his choice of tunes: a couple of adventurous originals, plus John Coltrane's magnificent "Syeeda's Song Flute" and Jerome Kern's lyrical "Yesterdays." The latter is emblematic, as Simon gives the warhorse a new lift, taking it in new directions. The combination of two saxes, bass, and drums works well, although it is often difficult to distinguish Simon's tenor or soprano from Jorge Sylvestor's alto or soprano. The four tracks are long, two lasting more than 20 minutes, but they never overstay their welcome. Barry Altschul's rare appearance on drums is a satisfying addition, as his signature style kicks hard and firm. It is the saxes that make the show, however, and both Simon and Sylvester dig in and project long, provocative improvisations, with rough-edged voices that display an ear for the past and a step toward the future. Few can play the soprano with the superb technique and fine intonation that Simon displays. This is an enjoyable set that reflects the work of a solidly progressive group.
Another Side Review
by Steve Loewy