He attended the Philadelphia Performing Arts School, graduating at 15, then received a music scholarship from the University of the Arts where he studied classical music with concert pianist Susan Starr. Later he transferred to the Manhattan School of Music where he studied jazz piano with Harold Danko.
Upon arriving on the New York jazz scene in 1989, his reputation as a pensive, rhythmically astute, versatile player caught the ear of noted musicians Greg Osby, Jerry Gonzalez, Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Mann, Kevin Eubanks and Paquito D’Rivera, all of who would later employ him. In 1989 Simon took the piano chair in Bobby Watson’s influential group Horizon (1989-94), later moving to the Terence Blanchard Group (1994-2002).
Simon made his first recording as a leader in 1994 (Beauty Within, Audioquest), giving birth to the Edward Simon Trio–- the same year he took third place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. Since then he founded several other jazz ensembles such as: the Edward Simon Quartet, Ensemble Venezuela and Afinidad. Today, the Edward Simon Trio has become an established voice with five recordings and recent performances at such well-known jazz venues as the Village Vanguard, Jazz Bakery and Casa del Jazz.
Fueled by a strong desire to break boundaries through improvised music, in 2000 Simon co-founded the quartet Afinidad with saxophonist/composer David Binney, which includes bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio Sanchez. Afinidad's mission is to create and perform eclectic contemporary American music with a focus on jazz, reflecting a wide range of musical influences such as Pop, Brazilian, Latin American and contemporary classical music. With this ensemble he produced two critically acclaimed recordings: Afinidad (Red Records, 2001) and Oceanos (Criss Cross, 2007). In 2008, Chamber Music America awarded Simon a second New Works: Creation and Presentation Program grant (2008-09) to compose and present "Sorrows and Triumphs", a work for Afinidad with special guest artists Adam Rogers, Gretchen Parlato and Rogerio Boccato.
At the same time, Simon has become increasingly interested in the folk music of his native land. In 2003 he founded Ensemble Venezuela, an outlet for exploring the marriage between jazz and Venezuelan music through new works and arrangements of works by Venezuelan masters. Two years later he was awarded a second grant from Chamber Music America to compose and perform the "Venezuelan Suite", a work that crosses the barriers between jazz, chamber music and Venezuelan folk music. Considered by some to be his most important work to date, "Venezuelan Suite" inspired the creation of a series of abstract paintings by artist Ellen Priest: "Jazz Paintings on Paper: Improvisations on the Venezuela Suite."
Simon has received Fellowships in Music Composition from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (2005), the State of Florida (2007) and the New York Foundation for the Arts (2008). He has served as faculty at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, the City College of New York and the University of the Arts. He has taught master classes and clinics at music conservatories and universities around the world and continues to teach piano and improvisation at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. He has been honored on two different occasions (1999, 2004) for this work with a Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Service to Jazz Education from the International Association for Jazz Education. In 2008 Simon had the rare opportunity to share his knowledge and experience with fellow Venezuelans. Thanks to a grant from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and The U.S. Department of State, he was a visiting professor at the Instituto Universitario de Estudios Musicales in Caracas, Venezuela.
In 2010 Simon was named Guggenheim Fellow by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. That same year he became a member of the SFJAZZ Collective, a prominent musician/composer jazz ensemble dedicated to creating new work and highlighting the music of historically significant jazz composers of the modern era. The Collective is comprised of “eight of the most in-demand” (New York Times) artists performing today. The following year he became a McDowell Fellow and completed a five-week long residency at the prestigious McDowell Colony. In 2012, Simon joined Ninety Miles, an outstanding ensemble lead by Stefon Harris, David Sanchez and Nicholas Payton. Steel House, his latest collaboration, is a trio featuring some of the most prominent players of his generation. Simon is a Yamaha Artist.
My compositional process usually begins at the piano, where I extemporize the raw material for my pieces as I allow ideas to flow freely. Then, using notation software, I carefully craft my ideas into a complete picture. During this process, sometimes an idea is like a seed that grows into a full piece, other times it's like fitting together pieces of a puzzle. I've been influenced by the works of minimalist composers and feel attracted to the idea of taking a simple idea and exploting it to its fullest potential.
Aesthetically, I'm concerned with simplicity and economy. I strive to get to the essence of the message I wish to communicate by making every note count, just as every word counts in a good story. I think of music as living being, something that's under constant transformation.
Awards & Honors
Three-time Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Grantee, 2014 |2008 | 2004
Doris Duke Impact Award Nominee, 2014
MacDowell Fellow, 2011
Guggenheim Fellowship, 2010
New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Music Composition, 2008
Fulbright Senior Specialist, The J. William Fulbright Scholarship Board, 2008
State of Florida Music Composition Fellowship, 2007
New York Times Top Ten Jazz Records of the Year, 2005 | 1995
Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship in Jazz Composition, 2005
Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition finalist, 1994
Edward Simon is a Yamaha Artist.