This recording is a series of new works by Edward Simon written for his jazz quartet, Afinidad. The ensemble was co-founded by Simon and saxophonist/composer/producer David Binney. The works to be recorded are Sorrows and Triumphs and House of Numbers, both commissioned by Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works program and funded by the Doris Duke Foundation. This recording will feature Afinidad and Imani Winds, representing the jazz and classical worlds, respectively, fulfilling Simon’s goal of integrating orchestral instruments into a jazz setting. Afinidad – featuring Simon on piano alongside saxophonist David Binney, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Brian Blade – is a world-class band of versatile, empathetic jazz improvisers.
Sorrows and Triumphs, is a suite of four pieces for Afinidad with Grammy-nominee vocalist Gretchen Parlato, guitarist Adam Rogers and percussionist Rogerio Boccato. Inspired by Simon’s Buddhist studies and meditation practice, more specifically a doctrine called the Brahma-Viharas, each piece is based on each of the Buddhist virtues: loving-kindness or benevolence, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity. Afinidad first performed Sorrows & Triumphs at the Walton Performing Arts Center, in Fayetteville, Arkansas on October 30, 2009 and later at Jazz Standard in New York City. Afinidad’s premiere performance was enthusiastically received and featured on NPR’s “Jazz Set.” These pieces reflect the wide range of influences and traditions that inform Simon’s composing such as jazz, South American and art music.
House of Numbers, a 40-minute suite in four movements, explores the cross-cultural resonance of numerology and the exponential musical possibilities that arise when jazz and classical artists combine. House of Numbers draws on musical traditions from Europe, Africa, North America and South America, blending composed structures with sections for improvisation. This suite brings together the distinct and often exclusive worlds of jazz and classical music, challenging chamber musicians to stretch their improvising skills, while inviting jazz artists into the formal structures of classical music. The numbers 3, 4, 5 and 7 – and their cultural and musical implications – form the basis of the new piece, with one movement in the suite devoted to each. The movements explore the formal and emotional possibilities generated by a given number. Simon, with Afinidad and award-winning classical ensemble Imani Winds, gave the premiere performance of House of Numbers at Faye Spanos Concert Hall, at the University of the Pacific on September 9, 2016.
Reviewing Afinidad’s Latin-inflected music-making, All About Jazz described the sound as “wonderful, accessible and deep.” About his bandmates, Simon remarks: “Their musicality, openness, and breadth give me the greatest freedom as a composer. It is our artistic bond of trust, built over many years, that underpins and encourages my explorations in .these pieces”.