Edward Simon - Sorrows & Triumphs

Label: Sunnyside Records, 2018

Personnel – Edward Simon: piano, keyboards; David Binney: alto saxophone; Scott Colley: acoustic bass; Brian Blade: drums + guests Adam Rogers: guitar; Gretchen Parlato: vocals; Rogerio Boccato: percussion; Luis Quintero: percussion + Imani Winds


Venezuelan-born pianist Edward Simon recorded for the third time with his group Afinidad, a quartet co-founded in 2000 with altoist David Binney, which also includes bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade. Simon wrote the two bodies of work that comprises Sorrows & Triumphs with the musical qualities of his peers in mind, and also invited special guests to further underscore his sophisticated arrangements. You’ll hear guitarist Adam Rogers, vocalist Gretchen Parlato, percussionists Rogerio Boccato and Luis Quintero, as well as the chamber quintet Imani Winds.

Conveying a blissful relaxation, “Incessant Desires” adopts fruitful unison strategies, whether we have Parlato’s voice matching Binney’s lines, or guitar and sax designing adjacent phrases. Everything sounds beautifully harmonious. Rogers cooks up a nice improvisational recipe having Simon’s keys paving a ground already compacted by bass and drums, while Binney, as a precipitous improviser, finalizes with fervorous intricate lines in an adrenaline-inducing moment colored by top-quality instrumental fills.

The saxophonist positively assaults our ears again on “Uninvited Thoughts”, a composition that kicks in with Arab-like scales, groovy bass leisure, a driving pulse mostly oriented for hi-hat and snare drum, and a poised piano dissertation. Dynamics of distinct rhythmic quality await Binney’s solo toward a broad range of emotion.

If Ms. Parlato goes wordless on “Equanimity”, a 6/4 stream that flows serenely with a dreamlike tone, her own lyrics permeate “Chant”, a smooth exercise in ambient soul jazz, and “Rebirth”, the brittle close. 

Venezuela Unida” attempts to call the world's attention for the deplorable socio-political state of Simon’s country, but in an optimistic manner. The band doesn’t waste much time in the chamber texture of the introductory section, incurring in a pulsating Latin rhythm enhanced by Quintero’s culo'e puya, a set of three long and narrow drums with a Kongo lineage. The piece, melodically activated by the horn section, offers up another peppery improvisation by Binney on top of highly-syncopated rhythmic left turns. Before that, Simon had resolutely expressed his thoughts with unflappable assuredness.

A sagacious funk is devised on “Triangle” through a forceful bass groove, bassoon elocution, and a reputable backbeat reinforced by Boccato's Latin percussion. It feels great hearing the bandleader creating fluid descendent motions that land on the lowest register with absolute precision. The busy finale, elevated by the wind quintet, comes in the sequence of an irresistible 7/4 circular movement. 

Taking a singular direction, “Triumphs” melds Brazilian rhythms with a lyrical resilience influenced by electronic music.

Simon’s persuasions, ranging from jazz to classical to African and South American music, only expedite his statute of a versatile modern musician. This is a pleasurable, integral work in which the collective’s musicianship is valiant and palpable.

       Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Incessant Desires ► 04 - Triangles ► 06 - Venezuela Unida