Reviews are coming in for Venezuelan Suite.
Edward Simon • Venezuelan Suite • SUNNYSIDE 1382 • 4 1/2 Stars
Venezuelan-born pianist Edward Simon has infused his big-hearted, lyrical jazz sound with the uplifting folkloric melodies and intricate rhythms of his native country. This blend has worked winningly in the repertoire of his vibrant trio with John Patitucci and Brian Blade. While many Latin influences have long flourished in the jazz vocabulary, Venezuela’s rich offerings have been largely overlooked and Simon has sought to remedy that. With the recording debut of his 10-piece Ensemble Venezuela, the pianist’s quest has come to its wholly organic, successful fruition.
Drawing from his classical foundations, Simon has expertly composed his four-movement Venezuelan Suite with a tight chamber approach while allowing the jazz elements to breathe. The ensemble unites the standard jazz rhythm section of piano, bass and drums with its Venezuelan counterpart: four-stringed cuatro, harp and maracas. Though the dark/light timbres of the two sections are nearly polar opposites, their integration is full-bodied and seamless due to Simon’s ingenious arranging and the ensembles’ intuitive improvising. Rhythmically, the cross-cultural groove is ferocious. Rounding out the unit is added percussion— primarily on the traditional tambora drum—and a front line of flute, bass clarinet and sax.
The suite takes listeners on an aural tour of Simon’s native land. Each movement is based on a characteristic song form or rhythm associated with the Venezuelan city for which the segment is named. Featured styles include joropo, the driving 5/8-metered Venezuelan-style merengue, waltz and the festive Christmas sound of gaita. Mark Turner delivers a particularly poignant tenor solo on “Caracas” while Simon’s soloing takes ecstatic flight on “Barinas.” The disc closes with a rousing take on the Venezuelan standard “El Diablo Suelto.” Ultimately, Simon doesn’t forcibly create connections here; he opens our eyes to natural connections that have always been there. —Jeff Potter
The Venezuelan pianist Edward Simon is part of a growing coterie of Latin American musicians both fluent in jazz and deeply engaged with the folk music of their native lands. His latest recording, Venezuelan Suite, is anchored by the eponymous four-part work. The adjective isn't impressionistic, but specific; each part of the work adapts a different folk form. (For example, "Caracas," heard here, is set in the 5/8 Venezuelan merengue.) It's also colorfully orchestrated, with flute, bass clarinet, maracas, the guitar known as the cuatro, and so forth. The particular combination of richness and lilt here seems unforced, the product of someone who's aimed at this target for a long time.
The Ottowa Citizen: Viva Venezuela!
"A gorgeous and brilliant mix of contemporary jazz and deep folkloric influences, pianist Edward Simon’s Venezuelan Suite is the first disc to dazzle me in 2014." Read more
ArtInfo BLU NOTES blog preview by Larry Blumenfeld
Edward Simon Venezuelan Suite (Blue Note, March 11): I first appreciated pianist Simon’s gifts in bands led by saxophonist Bobby Watson and trumpeter Terence Blanchard. Simon was born and raised in in the small coastal town of Cardón, Venezuela and educated at some of the best music schools in the U.S. since moving here in high school. Like so many jazz musicians with roots in Latin, Central or South America, Simon has consistently advanced jazz’s language while exploring his native legacy. This, his most overt example of such to date, was supported by a grant from Chamber Music America, and it seeks to cross borders between jazz and classical forms as well.
Louisville Music News - by Martin Kasdan
Edward Simon is a Venezuelan born jazz pianist, perhaps best known for his many trio recordings. This new release, as stated in the title, is a suite of music composed to evoke his homeland. The musicians are a mix of American jazz players, including saxophonist Mark Turner and Venezuelan musicians, including bassist Roberto Koch. The four-part suite sways and cavorts, with an airy blend of jazz and Venezuelan folk motifs. A fifth song, “El Diablo Suelto,” originally composed in 1888 by Heraclio Fernández, is a waltz much loved in Venezuela, and rightly so based on my hearing of Simon’s fast-paced arrangement. This is music that is engaging, sprightly, and thoroughly delightful. Click here to visit the website
Latin Jazz Network
"There appears to be a sudden rush on the part of many musicians who migrated to the United States—and some who have not—to put out a recording in which they celebrate pro patria. Edward Simon’s Venezuelan Suite is no exception and certainly one of the most significant creative musical achievements by a musician celebrating the home of the musician’s birth."
Jan/Feb keyboard issue of JazzTimes by Mike West.
"Venezuelan Suite, which adapts four of Simon’s country’s various folk-music traditions, uses their rhythms nicely." Read the Review
Jazz Inside New York by Scott Yanow
Click here to view the PDF of the review
The Checkout: WBGO.org
by Josh Jackson
Ed Simon’s “Venezuelan Suite”Pianist and composer Edward Simon takes on a musical journey through his home country with Venezuelan Suite, an ensemble work he has just released on Sunnyside Records with Adam Cruz on drums, Roberto Koch on bass, Marco Granados on flutes, Mark Turner on tenor saxophone, John Ellis on bass clarinet, Jorge Glem on cuatro, Luis Quintero on percussion, Leonardo Granados on maracas, and Edmar Castañeda on harp.
I'm excited to be featured in the Summer '13 edition of Jazziz. "In The Fullness of Time" is a wonderfully well written article by Ted Panken.
"Trio Live In New York" press release
Edward Simon is Visiting Jazz Artist at Western Michigan University. He will be teaching piano, composition and arranging, offering masterclasses and coaching ensembles through the course of four visits during the school year.