Live to two-track recordings are always a challenge. There are no opportunities to "fix" things; what you hear is pretty much what you get. While pianist Fred Simon professes to be a composer first and player second, by largely eschewing pyrotechnical displays of virtuosity and, instead, concentrating on the songs themselves, Fred and his trio deliver Dreamhouse
, a fine album of contemporary piano jazz .
Simon has been on the scene for about thirty years, working and recording with artists including Paul McCandless, Lyle Mays, Steve Rodby and Paul Wertico. With the last three being current and past members of the Pat Metheny Group, it’s no surprise that Simon shares certain characteristics, most notably a writing style that focuses on accessible songs which are, at the same time, harmonically rich, resulting in music that reveals new things with repeated listens.
The music runs the gamut of emotions. From the uplifting and hopeful "Anytime, Valentine", to the more poignant "Love Comes Quietly", inspired by a Robert Creeley poem, there is an underlying lyricism and sense of romance to Simon’s writing. Simon creates memorable melodies which are new, and yet strangely familiar. They stay in the memory long after the album has finished.
Bassist Kelly Sill and drummer Sarah Allen are sensitive accompanists, light and lithe one moment; pulsing and driving the next. Sill’s Haden-like solo on "Yes I Said Yes I Will Yes" has an almost composed feeling of construction.
As a pianist, Simon exhibits the influences that most contemporary pianists have, most notably Jarrett and Evans, but there is also a certain richness that brings to mind Steve Kuhn and Art Lande. Simon has a deft touch and keen sense of adventure that is always tempered with a refreshing ability to expand on the riches found within each song.Dreamhouse
is a beautifully conceived and well-crafted album of piano jazz which will appeal to listeners looking for beauty in simplicity; this is a recording that stays with you and compels you to put it on again and again.