In the space of just a few days in late summer I received several new releases in the mail that were double albums, chock full of music and additional content. Hazar Reincarnated was one (even though the second disc was a DVD of the performance), and this 25 year retrospective of Venezuelan pianist Edward Simon was another, received on the same day but from a different source. I don’t want to be too sappy or obvious, but that was a day spent listening to good music.
The Hazar album was quite extraordinary, especially if you’re a fan of classical and jazz guitar. This Edward Simon album, however, is a little different because instead of just playing the hits, Ridgeway Records has gone deep into the Simon catalog. The goal here is to cull the performances, across 13 albums spaced from 1995 to 2018, that specifically outline why, after 25 years, this pianist is being reconsidered as an influential Latin American musician who has “transformed jazz in recent decades.” I hate to use this word, but 25 Years isn’t a career retrospective. It’s “a personally curated tour through some of his highlights as a recording artist.”
Edward Simon, of course, is the curator. He collected and sequenced the music without caring about chronology, and yet there’s a stunning consistency from song to song, centered around Simon’s rhythmic and globe-trotting style. He’s been called one of the pillars of the Latin American jazz community, and you can certainly figure out those cultural flourishes among his cohorts, which include saxophone players Mark Turner and David Binney, bassists Scott Colley, John Patitucci and Ben Street and drummers Brian Blade and Adam Cruz.
But just listen to Edward Simon and his piano and how his fluid style seems to transcend jazz genres. 25 Years was meant to unfurl those influences and show how his lengthy and varied experience as a jazz musician leads to all sorts of intersections and tangents in his life, but I hear something different, a glorious approach to the keyboards that signals an original talent, focused, and one that definitely needs a bit more buzz in the world of contemporary jazz.