Pianist-composer Edward Simon’s newest large-scale work is House of Numbers, a 40-minute suite in four movements that explores not only the cross-cultural resonance of numerology but also the exponential musical possibilities that arise when jazz and classical artists combine. In House of Numbers, Simon draws on musical traditions from Europe, Africa, North America and South America, blending composed structures with sections for improvisation. Simon’s own jazz quartet,Afinidad, together with award-winning classical ensemble Imani Winds, gave the premiere performance of House of Numbers at Faye Spanos Concert Hall, University of the Pacific on September 9, 2016. The piece, a commission from Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works program, funded by the Doris Duke Foundation, 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. The composer explains: “The number 3, for instance, can suggest triple meters, such as 3/4, 6/4 or 6/8, which in turn can suggest certain grooves, particularly in the music of South America. It can also point to the use of triads and three-bar phrases. Above all, the number 3 points to the even distribution of forces into three equal parts, which suggests balance – an ideal in nature and life.”
In performance, Afinidad and Imani Winds represent 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. 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’s our artistic bond of trust, built over many years, that underpins and encourages my explorations in House of Numbers.”
Simon chose Imani Winds as partners for their “adventurous spirit and history of cross-genre collaborations with the likes of Wayne Shorter, Jason Moran and Danilo Perez,” he says. “They’re not just a classical repertory group – they’re interested in exploring all sorts of genres and ethnic traditions. Imani Winds also has a distinctive sound, with dynamic ensemble playing and an ability to dive into improvisation, which is rare among classical musicians.” Minnesota Public Radio has praised the group: “The Grammy-nominated Imani Winds bring a full-color spectrum to their music-making… creating a flavorful gumbo that is stylish and joy-filled.”
Beyond his own extensive background in jazz and Latin music, Simon has an affinity for the Western classical tradition, from J.S. Bach (whose music incorporates aspects of numerology) to contemporary minimalist composers, the latter for their way of expanding a simple idea to its fullest realization. “In my compositions, I aim to develop a sound that strikes a balance between the structural clarity of classical music and the fluid, moment-to-moment interaction of jazz,” he says. “Aesthetically, I’m concerned with directness and economy, striving to convey the essence of the message I wish to communicate by making every note count – just as every word counts in a good story.”
The process involved in House of Numbers – drawing upon source material from four continents and examining the resonance of numbers among diverse cultures – speaks to Simon’s own experience as an immigrant to the U.S. from Venezuela, as well as the challenges of identity and adaptation faced by all multicultural individuals. By delving into ethnic rhythms, jazz harmony and improvisation organized around each number that he explores, Simon endeavors in House of Numbers to convey the tale that numbers tell around the world.
Now accepting bookings for performances. Please send your inquiries to:
Hans Wendl Produktion
Tel. (510) 848-3864