Edward Simon

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Biography of Edward Simon

"Mr. Simon's touch, light and warm, allows for his music to drift calmly, taking its time to get to where it has to go". The New York Times

Pianist Edward Simon is present in the moment, the only way, he believes, that enables a musician to express himself sincerely. After fifteen years of touring in bands led by Kevin Eubanks, Bobby Watson, Paquito D'Rivera, and Terence Blanchard, the moment propels Simon in a new direction, one that better nurtures his own voice.

The Process, Simon's new Criss Cross recording, is his first straight-ahead jazz album as a leader. His first three efforts, Beauty Within (1994), Edward Simon (1995), and La Bikina (1998) each have elements of jazz but are rooted deeply in his Latin background. His ability to blend Afro-Caribbean rhythms, boleros, and his native folk songs with jazz harmonies established him as a unique talent who transcended genres.

Thus, The Process is a breakthrough for Simon, one that reaffirms his striking chops to the jazz world.

"There is such a great history of piano masters in jazz," says Simon, "that when you're playing straight-ahead, it's a great challenge to find your own distinct voice. After playing in Terence Blanchard's group for the past eight years and Bobby Watson's group Horizon the previous four, I felt I made some strides in that style and wanted to document my development."

"Simon is an important presence on the jazz and world music scene". Los Angeles Times

The process by which Simon became an internationally regarded jazz musician begins in the small coastal town of Cardón, Venezuela. Born there in 1969, Simon credits his father, Hadsy, for developing his passion for music and supporting him and his two brothers, Marlon and Michael, to become professional musicians. When Edward was eight years old, his father brought home some percussion instruments and an electric organ. Older brother Marlon, now a drummer/percussionist, was drawn to the timbales; Edward gravitated to the organ, while Michael, still a baby, later became interested in the trumpet and composition. Hadsy, who sang and played guitar, would invite his friends to their home on weekends so the family had an audience to perform for.

"We were fortunate to grow up in that kind of environment," says Edward. "I have very fond memories of those times, except for whenever my father insisted that I sing with him. That's when I'd go hide."

Initially, Simon's taste was limited to electronic instruments and Latin American dance music. His appreciation for jazz did not develop until he heard a concert on videotape.

"Our access to jazz music was very limited in Venezuela. I never really heard it until someone in our town got hold of a video of Chick Corea with Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz performing at the White House. I was only twelve years old, but hearing improvisation over changes and such intricate harmonies blew me away. That was my first introduction to the roots and tradition of jazz music and I immediately fell in love."

Soon, Simon's father recognized the kind of talent in his son that should be fostered by formal training in the United States. At fifteen, Edward was studying classical music in Philadelphia at the University of the Arts under the tutelage of concert pianist Susan Starr. Being that Simon was initially a self-taught musician, he was excited by the formal setting and considered it a great challenge. Still a teenager, living alone in urban America presented its own challenges for Simon, who would suffer from loneliness and displacement. He endured by immersing himself in study and practice, and by discovering the music of the jazz giants. He was initially drawn to Bill Evans and then gravitated toward Hancock, Monk and Bud Powell.

As for non-pianists, Simon's strongest influence was Miles Davis, whose use of space affected him profoundly and ultimately inspired his minimalist sensibility. In 1988, Simon arrived on the jazz scene performing in a trio led by bassist Charles Fambrough. The steady gig garnered him a reputation as a pensive, rhythmically-astute player, which caught the ear of noted musicians Greg Osby, Kevin Eubanks, and Bobby Watson, all of whom hired Simon. He toured with Watson's Horizon band for five years while juggling dates with established Latin jazz players, Jerry Gonzales, Herbie Mann, and Paquito D'Rivera.

In 1994, prolific composer and bandleader Terence Blanchard hired Simon to fill his piano chair. It was Simon's Latin background and passion for world music that his new leader most admired in him.

"Ed really helped define the sound of the band," says Blanchard. "He brought a broader perspective that made for some great contrasts in all the different things we did over the eight years we played together."

Simon will tour this year with John Patitucci, his bassist on The Process, and then follow up the album with another trio recording for Criss Cross in 2004. As part of an ongoing collaboration with saxophonist/composer David Binney, this year will bring us a duo recording for Red Records and in 2004 a duo recording with Grammy nominee vocalist Luciana Souza. Currently, he is producing a project close to his heart, arranging traditional Venezuelan songs for a jazz setting.

" He doesn't go in for dazzle and fleet-fingered runs but contents himself with digging in and mining the music for drama and invention. He often turns these rural sounds into deep emotional statements". JazzJournal International

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