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The Randy Simon Jazz Project

by Alexander M. Stern on April 17, 2014



Randy Simon’s latest effort—the double-CD Nyhavn Live—marks the talented composer’s first foray into live recording, capturing an extraordinary group of area musicians in full flight, while reminding us that exceptional jazz does indeed exist outside of New York City.

For those unfamiliar with Simon and his music, the story is almost too good to be true:  A lifelong jazz fan, Randy Simon began taking piano lessons as an adult. Feeling his improvisational skills inadequate to the task of performing jazz piano, Simon began writing his ideas down and discovered a previously unsuspected talent for composition. Four albums later, Simon has proven a first-rate writer and bandleader, producing breathtaking melodies that inspire his musicians to creative heights.

For this album, recorded in concert at Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady, Simon has assembled a stellar quintet: Pianist Rob Lindquist, bassist John Menegon, and drummer Danny Whelchel form a rock-solid rhythm section, working together with Swiss-watch precision, while Dylan Canterbury on trumpet and flugelhorn, and saxophonist Kevin Barcomb provide an arresting front line.

Working in close collaboration with Lindquist, Simon provides 11 compositions that show the pianist to advantage. The music is straight-ahead, yet adventurous. Simon’s gift for melody invites comparisons with the likes of Burt Bacharach on the bracing “Season to Taste” and the meditative “Questions,” which features Kevin Barcomb on soprano sax. The title track is a waltz-time tribute to the city of Copenhagen, a city that has welcomed a great many American jazz musicians over the years. It features a lyrical solo from pianist Lindquist, as well as a lovely arco solo from bassist Menegon, and Danny Whelchel’s subtle brush work.

Nyhavn Live is a worthy effort from an exceptional talent.