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Marlon Simon

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Biography of Marlon Simon

One of the main exponents of Latin Jazz today...


Educator, Percussionist, Composer Marlon Simon was born in the small town of Cardon Venezuela. His first contact with music, at the age of 10, came from his father, a guitarist and vocalist. He always kept the music environment in our house. Whenever we had a visitor my father used to take his guitar out and invite me to join him, playing on a little bongo. Later on, I drove him nuts. When I reached the age of 15, he bought me a set of timbales. I learned most of the Latin rudiments on my own. Listening mostly to dance bands, salsa, merengue and other South American dance music styles helped me begin playing with top local bands in the area. By the time he was 18, Simon had organized his own band and had begun performing locally at concerts and clubs, sometimes opening for major national acts. His interest in jazz was sparked when he was 19 and a friend brought him a video he had recorded of Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea and Miroslav Vitous, and others. Simon quickly became hooked, and with an abiding interest in jazz and African-originated music he came to the United States in 1987 and began formal studies on drums at The University of The Arts in Philadelphia. In 1988, he received a grant from the Philadelphia Music Foundation. He moved to New York in 1989, and later obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Jazz and Contemporary Music from the New School for Social Research. During his studies, Mr. Simon worked locally in the city, developing his unique style and gaining the respect of noted jazz and Latin musicians.

He has worked with such luminaries as Hilton Ruiz, Dave Valentin, Jerry Gonzalez, Chucho Valdes and Bobby Watson to mention a few. After several years, he formed his own Latin jazz ensemble, Marlon Simon and the Nagual Spirits. With his own group Marlon got the opportunity to showcase his talents as a composer and drummer defining a distinct approach to Latin Jazz. Simon has since released three recordings: The Music of Marlon Simon for K-Jazz Records (1999), Rumba a la Patato for Ubiquity (Cubop) Records (2000) and his latest CD "Live in Bolivia" for Intrigue Records (2004). His music has taken him around the globe to France, Canada, Poland, Australia, Netherland Antilles, USA and South America.

Marlon Simon has also appeared in numerous recordings with other well known jazz greats. Parallel to his career as a performer, Simon has also become recognized as an in-demand educator as a specialist in Afro-Caribbean rhythms. He has conducted workshops, master classes and seminars at Temple University, Penn State University, Rutgers University, the New Jersey ABC conference for public school teachers, the University of the Arts and Perkings Center for the Arts. He has also served as an Artist-in-Residence at numerous public and private schools in the tri-state area and abroad. In the year 2000 he was named the distinguished teaching artist in recognition of a history of commitment of excellence in the Arts and Education and for receiving the highest regard of your Arts and Education peers issued by the New Jersey State Council of the Arts. In the year 2001 Marlon received The New Jersey Governor's award in Arts and Education. In June 2001 Marlon performed as a guest solo artist and conducted seminars at The Ultimate Drummers weekend, the largest drumming event in the southern hemisphere in Melbourne, Australia. In 2003 Marlon Simon and the Nagual Spirits were selected to present two international concerts representing the excellence of artistry developed in the US sponsored by the fund for the US artist and the State department.

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