(Edward Simon, piano; John Patitucci, bass; Brian Blade, drums)
The trio Edward Simon has put together for Unicity is versatile. They can play everything from moody to cinematic to straight-up swinging. This is no surprise considering that while in the employ of trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, Simon released a series of ensemble albums that mixed jazz with music from Mexico, Cuba, and Argentina to create something totally unique. While Unicity is relatively free of a Latin influence, Simon’s eagerness to experiment remains.
The first clue that something interesting is afoot is the bowed bass solo by John Patitucci on Abiding Unicity, a moody piece written by Simon which wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack to an old detective movie. Another unique song is Prelude No. 9, a haunting classical piece written by Catalan composer Frederic Mompou. Simon’s trio treats Mompou’s composition with respect, refusing to make the small, sad piece showy. There is a wonderful tension to the Simon compositions Pathless Path and Eastern, both using a lot of space to create memorable melodies with very few chords and notes.
Space is also important on Gerviasolas, a piece written by avant-garde alto saxophonist Dave Binney. Led by a simple strong bass line from Patitucci, the song has a uncomplicated but memorable melody. The track that follows it on the album, The Midst of Chaos, while melodic as well, could have benefited from some space and paring down of notes. It’s the curse of the trio’s often elegant restraint that when they tread into more conventional piano trio territory, it seems a little stale.
Overall, Unicity is a gorgeous collection of songs, with just a few duds. By focusing less on showy improvisation and more on strong, melodic compositions, Simon’s trio is able to utilize the spaces between notes and chords to full effect, though that isn’t to say that the three musicians aren’t putting their own individual mark on the pieces.
Tracks: Invocation, The Messenger, Abiding Unicity, Gerviasolas, The Midst of Chaos, Prelude No. 9, Pathless Path, Evolution, Eastern, Abiding Unicity (Reprise)
– Jeff Krow