Edward Simon has been making good records for 20 years, and has released two previous piano trio albums with John Patitucci and Brian Blade. He has recorded all the tunes here before, at least once. But he has never made an album like At Jazz Standard. It is his first live recording, and live recordings are different.
They provide jazz improvisers with the stimulating tension of creating in the moment for an actual interactive audience (as opposed to a producer and engineer in a studio), and they allow luxuries of time and space. Simon, as never before, is able to digress and stream ideas and make lyric discoveries far from where he began. He spills the piquant, questioning theme of his own “Poesia,” then takes 11 minutes to postulate answers. Conversely, he has time to return to ideas that resonate and repeat them into rituals. Jobim’s “Chovendo Na Roseira” is a hypnotic cycle whose recurrences build drama for 14 minutes.
Simon is extraordinarily well served by Wayne Shorter’s rhythm section. Patitucci’s solos are as narratively rich as Simon’s. And Simon sometimes sounds shot from a slingshot by Blade’s explosions. Patitucci’s bass stays at the center of “Chovendo,” the 7/4 ringing reference around which Simon pivots and swirls. Simon writes haunting melodies, but on “Pathless Path,” the theme is withheld while Patitucci yearns on arco, then plucks a dark ostinato as Simon floats free. The melody turns out to have been there all along, and for 16 minutes it is pursued and expanded through lush transformations, and finally concentrates back into itself and circles like an obsessive ceremony.
Simon is originally from Venezuela. He is less talked about than many other important jazz pianists from the Caribbean and South America, but he may be the most complete creative artist among them.