Edward Simon is only 37, but his musical résumé is deep and long. At 16, he came from a small town in Venezuela (where he played salsa, cumbia and merengue in a family band) to study European classical piano at the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts. He also studied jazz at the Manhattan School of Music. He has had long tenures in bands led by Bobby Watson and Terence Blanchard. Unicity is his eighth recording as a leader.
Given his cross-cultural interdisciplinary background, the diversity of his music is not surprising, but its lucidity and richness and especially its poise are distinctive. In “Pathless Path,” a mesmerizing, patient piano ostinato suggests that you do not investigate mysteries, you wait them out. “Eastern” has a subtly insidious vamp embedded in it, from which it expands to large vistas. Simon’s touch on the keyboard is perfectly matched to his music: intellectually precise yet sensuous.
The team of John Patitucci and Brian Blade is extraordinary on this album. For the last five years, they have been known for power and creative explosiveness in Wayne Shorter’s quartet. Here, they are all about nuanced sensitivity, in the fervent whispers of Blade’s brushes and the meaningfully placed, resonant, conclusive punctuations of Patitucci’s bass.