— All About Jazz
Afinidad is the forward-minded jazz ensemble co-led by pianist Edward Simon and saxophonist David Binney, with the kindred-spirit rhythm section of bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade. The group has released two color-rich albums, Afinidad (Red Records, 2001) and Océanos (Criss Cross, 2007). All About Jazz described Océanos as “wonderful, accessible and deep,” while Jazz Review summed it up as “a gift.” The Simon-Binney partnership is based on a 25-year affinity, their musical visions as simpatico as their personalities. Their sounds in Afinidad were evoked in the liner notes to the group’s first album, where Luca Conti wrote: “Binney’s saxophone lines shine in an almost geometric sense… Simon’s touch warms up the atmosphere with lyricism of evocative power.” Simon and Binney’s aesthetic drives are synergistic. The Venezuela-bred, Florida-based pianist is determined to tap both his Latin heritage and his modern jazz sensibility, “without sacrificing anything on either side.” The Miami-born, Southern California-bred, New York-based saxophonist has always had a wide-open, self-actualizing artistic energy. They are buttressed by the complementary aesthetics of Colley and Blade, who are distinguished bandleaders and composers by their own lights.
Afinidad’s eponymous debut on record features ambitious, culture-blending originals often influenced by Brazilian music, along with adaptations of lyrical pieces by modernist Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. In addition to the core quartet, Afinidad includes contributions from guitarist Adam Rogers, percussionist Adam Cruz and vocalist Lucia Pulido. Upping the ante, Océanos was another bright, boundary–jumping collection, featuring a mix of often Latin-accented compositions by Simon and Binney. The lineup included the quartet along with guitarist Adam Rogers again, plus Brazilian vocal star and longtime mutual friend Luciana Souza, Venezuelan conguero Pernell Saturnino and a guest horn section. The music of these albums led All About Jazz to say: “Binney and Simon have emerged, over the past decade, as leaders in an evolving musical context informed by broader cultural concerns, often complex harmonic and rhythmic foundations, and a fresh thematic approach that’s eminently lyrical yet steadfastly avoids the obvious. Both are fine soloists, able to combine a sense of the cerebral with deeper emotional resonance.”
About his partner in leading Afinidad, Simon has this to say: “Dave’s playing is as good as his writing, and he’s a great composer. He’s eclectic, open to all sorts of influences, and has the ability to put them together into something personal – I can tell a piece is his from the first few bars. I draw a lot of inspiration from his general openness to let the music take whatever direction it needs to.” And about Simon, Binney says: “I’ve always enjoyed Ed’s sensitive musicality. His musical concept sums up the way I hear things, and because of his Latin American roots, his rhythmic sense is very strong, which complement the way I play. Sometimes I play with more abandon, and he locks things in. And his compositions have a lot of thought behind them.”
As for the Colley-Blade rhythm team, Simon adds: “Musicians who are composers interpret other people’s music in a much more informed way, and both Scott and Brian have the right sensibility to articulate the kind of music we write, with sensitivity to space, to the quality of sound, to textural nuance.”
Afinidad has performed at some of the finest festivals and venues around the world, from the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, Duc Des Lombards in Paris and Casa del Jazz in Rome to the Jazz Standard in New York City, Folly Theater in Kansas City and Walton Arts Center in Arkansas. In 2008, Chamber Music America commissioned Simon to compose Sorrows and Triumphs, a work inspired by his Buddhist studies. Afinidad premiered the piece at the Walton Arts Center, and it was featured on NPR’s Jazz Set.
DownBeat has called Simon “one of the strongest pianists of his generation, with intuitive empathy and drum-like ingenuity. He solos compositionally with passionate elegance.” Simon – who first came to the U.S. in 1981 at age 12, then settled permanently stateside after attending the Performing Arts School in Philadelphia – grew up in a musical family in the oil-refinery town of Punta Cardón, Venezuela. He has performed with the likes of Greg Osby, Jerry Gonzalez, Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Mann, Kevin Eubanks and Paquito D’Rivera. Simon played in Bobby Watson’s group Horizon (1989-94) and then in the Terence Blanchard Group (1994-2002). A Guggenheim Fellow, Simon is currently a member of the hit SFJAZZ Collective, as well as leader of the Edward Simon All-Star Trio with John Patitucci and Brian Blade. In January 2014, Simon released the first Sunnyside album from his 10-piece Ensemble Venezuela.
Renowned as a musician’s musician, Binney has been singled out by JazzTimes as one of the prolific leading lights of “an alternative jazz scene… playing adventurous, original music.” He moved from California to New York City at age 19 to study with Phil Woods, Dave Liebman and George Coleman. In 1989, Binney was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to record his first album, Point Game (Owl Records). Since then, Binney’s distinctive saxophone sound and innovative compositions have been heard from basement clubs in Manhattan to jazz festivals in Europe and beyond. In addition to his work as a leader – recording more than a dozen albums under his own name – Binney has long been a sought-after sideman, appearing on record with Medeski, Martin & Wood, Uri Caine’s Mahler Project and a who’s who of players on the New York scene. He has also performed onstage with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Maceo Parker.
Scott Colley, a native of Los Angeles based in New York City, has been the bassist of choice for such jazz legends as Jim Hall, Andrew Hill, Michael Brecker, Carmen McRae and Herbie Hancock. He has appeared on some 200 albums to date, including recent releases by Gary Burton, John Scofield, Chris Potter and Kenny Werner. Colley has also released seven acclaimed albums as a leader since 1996. The 2010 release Empire (CAM Jazz) finds the bassist leading a band with Bill Frisell, Ralph Alessi, Craig Taborn and Brian Blade.
Brian Blade was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and raised with gospel music in the Baptist church, later studying in New Orleans and working with many masters of Crescent City music. A member of the Wayne Shorter Quartet since 2000, the drummer has also recorded with artists from Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris and Daniel Lanois to Herbie Hancock, Kenny Garrett, Joshua Redman and Wolfgang Muthspiel. In 1997, Blade formed The Fellowship Band with pianist Jon Cowherd; the widely acclaimed group has released four albums, including 2013’s Landmarks (Blue Note).