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by Ian Mann

June 08, 2006


A refreshing album which transcends the clichés that can sometimes blight Latin Jazz.

Trumpeter and composer Michael Simon was born in Venezuela in 1975. He moved to Cuba to study the trumpet in 1991 before moving on again to Holland and the Rotterdam Conservatory where he completed his trumpet studies at the jazz department. He remained at the Conservatory and later graduated in arranging and composition.

Today he is still based in Rotterdam and if this album, his debut as a leader, is anything to go by he is now putting all that learning to very good use.

“Revelacion” is an extremely attractive album of Latin flavoured jazz. However, Simon is not content to take the easy option of just producing dance and party music as so often happens under the “Latin” banner. Although much of his music is eminently danceable there is a spirit of adventure about his writing and there is much more to his composing than that. He is not afraid to mix moods, rhythms and tempos and as a result this is a well-programmed collection that holds the attention of the listener from beginning to end.

Technically Simon is a fine trumpeter and his own playing is at the heart of the arrangements. He has assembled a highly talented band including his brother Marlon on drums and percussion. Pianist Jose Luis Loprettri shines throughout the album and is also integral to the group’s sound.

The album opens with “Before I Go” featuring Venezuelan rhythms and a fine solo from guest trombonist Ilja Reijngoud.

“Juliana Bridge Bomba-Blues” is an excellent example of the fusion of jazz and Latin elements. A jazz/blues theme is underpinned by bomba and calypso rhythms. Lopretti contributes a sparkling piano solo.

“My Response” is a reflective ballad featuring Lopretti’s thoughtful piano and Simon’s warm trumpet and flugel tones.

“Ocho Rios Mood” actually incorporates several moods. It begins exuberantly featuring the vocals of J.C. Bulu Viloria and Michael Simon himself driven along by percussionists Marlon Simon and Gerardo Rosales. The piece then adopts a more sombre tone featuring the melancholy ring of Simon’s muted trumpet.

“Mangueriando” again combines a jazz structure with Latin rhythms and a cool trumpet solo from Simon. Lopretti contributes a delicate solo and saxophonists Efraim Trujillo and Konstantin Klashtorni show up well on tenor and alto respectively.

“Por Instinto” continues in a similar vein but “Renacer” is a hauntingly beautiful duet between Michael Simon on trumpet and his brother Edward making a guest appearance on piano. There is great empathy between Michael’s burnished trumpet sound and Edward’s rolling piano chords. Both Edward and Marlon are resident in the US these days and it is unusual for all three Simon brothers to appear on the same record.

The closing “Spiritual Affinities” is the longest and most ambitious track on the record and again encompasses a variety of moods and tempos rooted in the rhythms of Venezuela. Opening with a fanfare it takes in a percussion dialogue and concludes with the interlocking horns of Klashtorni’s alto and the leader’s trumpet.

This is a refreshing album which transcends the clichés that can sometimes blight Latin Jazz.

The care taken in the writing and arrangements and the quality of the playing make this album stand out from others in its field. In the event of Simon bringing his band to the UK they should be well worth catching live.

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