The pianist uses many elements, not the least of which are his Venezuelan heritage, classical and modern jazz background, and subtle dynamics on this ten-cut, 65-minute program. The compositions range from Yoruban chants and Philip Glass miminalism, to Michael Brecker-type neo-bop, long, moody, composed saxophone section lines, ECM-like soundscapes, and two versions, one Afro-Cuban Santeria derived, the other going from bop to avant in one fell swoop, of the famous tune "The Peanut Vendor."
Simon's piano playing is stunning, whether running fast, hard lines or playing the beautiful, repetitive themes that create a calming backdrop for his ensemble. Saxophonists Mark Turner, in a Coltrane-Brecker combo style on tenor, and Dave Binney, a bit more individualistic on alto, lay a foundation for the others, do their own fair share of improvising, and give the music a tuneful center.They are most effective on the minimal intro'd, gossip-chattery sound of "Uncertainty" fueling Simon's ultra-melodic Don Grolnick-like piano musings. They evoke the ECM aesthetic on the gorgeous "Ericka," while mimimalistic themes are also utilized on the moody unison sax chart on the 14 ½- minute title, Turner reaching that rarefied 'Trane-derived upper register, while the 11-minute "Quinta Anauco" employs an ostinato bass in a love trance, slow, heartbreak ballad/waltz. There's some Latin in the opening vocal chant "The Prayer," helped along by master vocalist Milton Cardona, and the thickly textured first version of "The Peanut Vendor." Upon close aural observation, you'll also hear on occasion a steel pan drum set, played by regular drummer Adam Cruz. Simon's music is quite interesting, but you, the listener, must get as involved in it as the musicians creating it. It's new contemporary jazz with many unconventional twists and turns, and marks a growth curve in the pianist/composers blossoming career. Stay tuned, there's more to come from this extraordinary musician.