courtesy of the artist
Sorrows and Triumphs at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, Ark.
Edward Simon and Gretchen Parlato in rehearsal for the premiere performance of
"We Dream Oceans" (Binney)
"El Parrandero" (Binney)
Edward Simon, piano
David Binney, saxophone
Gretchen Parlato, vocals
Adam Rogers, guitar
Scott Colley, bass
Antonio Sanchez, drums
Rogerio Boccato, percussion
Pianist Edward Simon and saxophonist David Binney are friends and co-leaders of the mystical-sounding quartet Afinidad, which also features Scott Colley on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums.
Simon grew up on the Gulf Coast of Venezuela and Binney came of age in Southern California, so they named their recent album Oceanos. Our concert opens with Binney's composition from that album, "We Dream Oceans."
"Oceans" and "El Parrandero (The Party Man)" motor along on rhythmic figures, sometimes assigned to Simon. In this seven-piece configuration, the added vocal and guitar melodies often ride with the saxophone, at least briefly. "We Dream Oceans" fades away on concurrent figures from guitar, voice, piano and sax. "El Parrandero" showcases Binney soloing over stringy ostinatos from Adam Rogers on guitar, and begins and ends with expansive drums and percussion from Rogerio Boccato of Sao Paulo and New York.
The focus, however, is on Simon's new jazz work, Sorrows and Triumphs, commissioned by Chamber Music America. The three movements — "Equanimity," "Sorrows" and "Triumphs" –- can be played in any order. They document Simon's practice as a Buddhist, contemplating acceptance of life's ups and downs and finding inner balance, a process that never ends. In "Equanimity," a scale-wise vocal melody settles over a revolving piano and bass and leads into improvisation. "Sorrows" features Gretchen Parlato's delicate singing, with lyrics about the practice of non-attachment.
"Triumphs" has a heroic quality. Simon writes, "One of my favorite contemporary classical music composers is Steve Reich, and you can certainly hear his influence in my writing, as well as my influences of Brazilian music, especially on 'Triumphs.'"
Edward Simon has recently been named a Guggenheim Fellow. He is a member of the 2010-11 SF JAZZ Collective who signs off his emails with an intriguing Albert Einstein quotation: "If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician."
Afinidad premiered Sorrows and Triumphs at the Walton Arts Center on Oct. 30, 2009. The following night, Afinidad presented the music at the Folly Theater in Kansas City, and there have been performances at the Jazz Standard in New York since then.
Sorrows and Triumphs was created with support from Chamber Music America's New Works: Creation and Presentation Program, funded through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Robert Ginsburg is the jazz curator at the Walton Arts Center. Onsite recording by Brian Vanauken, Surround Sound remix by Duke Markos.