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Oceanos by David Binney and Edward Simon

The seventeen-year relationship between alto saxophonist David Binney and pianist Edward Simon has been an open one. They’ve partnered with other musicians and have come back to each other with more worldly and vivified musical offerings. Oceanos (Criss Cross Jazz) is their reunion release in a group setting since 2001’s Afinidad (they recorded Fiestas de Agosto on Red Records in 2005 as a duo). It demonstrates just what a little moonlighting can do.

Oceanos, recorded in 2004 and released this year, finds Binney and Simon counterbalancing their contrasting playing and compositional styles. The pieces are dramatically draped in plush, closely (but not tightly) woven voicings. "We Dream Oceans" and "Impossible Question" are like chasms, wide and deep enough for the ensemble to drop themselves into and revel in their own designs around the arrangements. Drummer Brian Blade and percussionist Pernell Saturnino give "We Dream Oceans" its legs as bassist Scott Colley and Simon keep pace at a carefree, fleeting tempo. Binney squeals and teases as the piece concludes with a surge of clustered notes from the horn section. Listeners are serenaded by guitarist Adams Rogers on "Impossible Question". The nylon strings give the song fluid motion that easily bends into Luciana Souza’s vocals. The Grammy-nominated singer is an accomplished leader and composer in her own space. Her wordless musings ripple over what’s running beneath her and she adds pinches of sensuality and boundless spirit.

"Amnesia", written by Colley, captures Blade sculpturing a rhythmic collage around Colley’s vamp line as Simon dusts it with a sparse string of minor tones. Binney and trumpeter Shane Endsley come in with a lanky bop melody line. Binney’s coarse sound is filed down slightly and is judicially used for an edge that complements this most ethereal and moody composition. Blade and Colley are the architects of this one and demonstrates Blade as one of the most astute drummers in jazz.

"Govinda" peers shyly through as Simon plays a plaintive, single-noted statement. Singing alongside almost in poetic sympathy are Rogers and Souza. Written with his son in mind, Simon’s dedication is poignant without being drippy or saccharinated. "Home" is a beautiful closer. It was recorded on Binney’s 2006’s Out of Airplanes with a more rock-ish approach. Here, it is tranquil and contained yet bold with the horns giving it a full, robust sound. The thrashing guitar solo by Bill Frisell on Out of Airplanes is replaced and relaxed by Colley. The tune has no less authority here, especially when you here Binney bay and bring it to its finality with an emotive solo.

The recording of Oceanos was the gathering of old buds who frequently appear on each other’s releases and appear on the bandstand together. It is a gift, knowing each artist’s demanding touring schedules and numerous recording dates. And because of this, a live performance of cuts from Oceanos may be impossible. For Binney, there has been a part in the seams of his collaboration with Simon and his "vision for this record was pretty strong." He feels that he and Simon "have reached a point where our ideas are a little clearer and the composition and playing might be stronger. We’ve reached a certain level." Another gift from this recording.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: David Binney and Edward Simon
  • CD Title: Oceanos
  • Genre: Various Jazz Styles
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Criss Cross Jazz
  • Tracks: We Dream Oceans, Impossible Question, Amnesia, El Parrandero, Govinda, Twenty Four Miles To Go, Impossible Question Reprise, Home
  • Musicians: David Binney (alto saxophone), Edward Simon (piano), Scott Colley (bass), Brian Blade (drums), Luciana Souza (vocals), Adam Rogers (guitar), Shane Endsley (trumpet), Jesse Newman (trumpet), Alan Ferber (trombone), Pernell Saturnino (percussion)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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