John David Simon & Friends with Clark Terry & Etta
John David Simon And Friends With Clark Terry & Etta Jones John David Simon - tenor saxophone Clark Terry - trumpet & flugelhorn Etta Jones - vocals Eddie Bert - trombone Mike Longo - piano Matthew Parrish - bass Bobby Durham - drums "I call him 'Old Faithful'. He's very, very, very special to me," Clark Terry says about his friend, John David Simon. "I call him 'Old Faithful' because he's always around when you need somebody to turn to - he's always there." Terry and Simon have known each other for nearly a quarter of a century, since the great trumpeter-flugelhornist was first featured as a special guest with Joe Sudler's Swing Machine, the Philadelphia "territory band" in which the saxophonist held down the tenor chair for many years. Terry and Simon developed a strong bond with each succeeding appearance with the group by 'Cee Tee' (as Terry is affectionately known to his colleagues) and even recorded together on the CD The Joe Sudler Swing Machine & Clark Terry on TJA Records. "I just love his playing. I love the kind of person he is," Terry goes on. "Just down to earth enough, swinging enough and still correct. He plays all the right changes and everything, but doesn't become obsessed with all of these clichés and so-called modern things. He knows how to swing ... kind of reminds me of a player that has been around for a long time ... like a lot of those cats that's been around - Don Byas ... Ben Webster ... Hawkins and all them. He has a bit of those good old players." Simon himself modestly concurs with Clark's appreciative appraisal of his attributes. "I'm not one of those guys who idolizes one player and tries to sound just like the one guy. I like all the masters and I was lucky to hear quite a few of them before they died. You know, I heard Dexter Gordon many times. Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Johnny Griffin, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims ... to this day I go hear Sonny Rollins every chance I get." Simon hasn't just heard a lot of the masters; he's played with quite of few of them himself. He's rightly proud of playing at Radio City Music Hall with Terry's big band for Ella Fitzgerald's final New York appearance. With Sudler's ensemble some of the artists with whom he's played with through the years include Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis, Buddy DeFranco, Jon Faddis, Frank Foster, J.J. Johnson, Slide Hampton, Stanley Turrentine and Phil Woods. As a long time member of the Illinois Jacquet Big Band, he's shared the stage with the terrific Texas Tenor countless times, as well as with many other greats, such as Ray Charles, Harry 'Sweets' Edison, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Freddie Hubbard, Flip Phillips and Joe Williams, who guested with the group. And as a young mainstay on the Philadelphia jazz scene he jammed with the likes of Johnny Coles, Philly Joe Jones, Hank Mobley, Mickey Roker, Grover Washington, Jr. and many others. Coming up in Philly, Simon got the kind of musical education and experience that was not available to many of his contemporaries in other cities. A natural born talent, he started picking out melodies on the family piano before he was even five and began studying formally at the age of ten. After spending some time on classical guitar and French horn, he finally settled on the saxophone in high school, playing with the school's wind ensemble. His first jazz instruction on the instrument came from Joe Fortunato, a tenor man who played regularly with organist Papa John DeFrancesco, father of the Hammond B3 great Joey DeFrancesco. Simon would often sit in with the group and fondly remembers, "I was there when Joey was a little kid - I'd say he was about seven or eight years old - and he got up on the organ the first time in a club. He started playing a blues and everyone jumped up." John's early experience playing with the organ trio stood him well in his development on the Philly jazz scene, where good pianos were rare and Hammond organs plentiful. He ended up landing the gig at Gert's, the longstanding South Street establishment, where he held forth with drummer Johnny Williams' trio featuring organ master Don Patterson,"four nights a week, five sets a night," succeeding his friend and fellow Philadelphia College of Performing Arts graduate Willie Williams. At Gert's Simon played with a slew of the best organists who came to hear Patterson and sit in, including Jimmy McGriff and Groove Holmes. He worked often with Shirley Scott and Trudy Pitts. Eventually he landed his own trio gig in the North Philadelphia club Jewel's, where he played in the room's front bar area while national acts performed in another room, gaining exposure to larger crowds and more importantly to the famed artists like Lou Donaldson, Jimmy Heath, Cedar Walton and Charles Earland, who appeared there. It was Earland who took Simon out of Philadelphia on his first tours. He stayed with the 'Mighty Burner' for a year until giving up the gig to a young Eric Alexander. Eventually, in the nineties he made the move to New York, where he has forged forward in the jazz capital of the world. The saxophonist, who earned a Master of Music Degree from the Manhattan School of Music, continues his important role as a music educator (he taught for ten years at the prestigious Settlement Music School in Philadelphia where people like Wallace Roney, Joey DeFrancesco, Christian McBride, Duane Eubanks and Jaleel Shaw studied through the years), as a member of the faculty of both The Ridgewood Conservatory and Henry Street Settlement Abrons Art Center. His years of experience with Sudler, Jacquet and Panama Francis' Savoy Sultans, combined with his impressive sightreading skills finds him frequent work in large ensembles, both as a regular member of units like the Cotton Club All Stars and the Lionel Hampton Orchestra and as a reliable substitute in groups like Clark Terry's Big Band and Jolly Giants, David Berger's Sultan's of Swing and Charli Persip's Superband. On the occasions where Simon gets the opportunity to step out front he is an eminently qualified bandleader, soloist and arranger, as we hear on this date where he has augmented his classic styled quartet with some veteran friends to produce a supremely swinging album, the likes of which we do not hear often enough these days. The experienced rhythm section accompanying Simon and his guests is as good as it gets. The leader first met and performed with veteran pianist Mike Longo, best known for his work with Dizzy Gillespie, in the mid '90's at the suburban jazz club run by drummer Al DeFemio and the two hit it off immediately. The pair worked together in the saxophonist's duo and trio for a couple of years before coming together again for this date. The youngest member of the group, bassist Matthew Parrish, first hooked up with Simon at a late night jam session with Ted Curson at New York's Blue Note in the late eighties and became a regular member of his quartet and quintet shortly thereafter, right up to the time of this recording. Simon's relationship with the great Bobby Durham goes back to his Philly days at Gert's where the drummer would stop by and sit in on breaks from his busy touring schedule with Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald. John remembers, "He hired me to sub for [Philly Joe Jones' saxophonist] Charles Bowen in his band and later we worked together with Ella Fitzgerald, Clark Terry, Lionel Hampton and Jimmy Dorsey Orchestras. We roomed together while on a world cruise with the Dorsey band and we spent much time together on and off the bandstand. Whenever he was available, I would hire Bobby to play in my band." Durham's powerful yet sensitive drumming is the spark plug in the rhythm section engine that keeps the group running smoothly at every tempo. The addition of special guests Terry, trombonist Eddie Bert and Etta Jones to this finely tuned group on various tracks makes for a diverse and enjoyable program that should satisfy the most discerning music fans. The group comes out swinging hard right out of the gate on Terry's Opus Ocean, an uptempo burner that receives it's first studio showing following a pair of live recordings by the trumpeter's quintets at the Village Gate (with Jimmy Heath) in the '80's and on the QE 2 in the '90's. Simon gives his special guest friend the honor of the first solo following their flawless unison execution of the melodic line at a breakneck pace and the trumpeter proves himself to be in fine form on the top of his game with an outing that shows off his dazzling dappled tone. The leader follows, demonstrating his own notable skills with a broad toned tenor solo that is hard swinging and lyrical, an impressive task considering the tempo at which he is spinning out his ideas. The two trade fours with Durham following Longo's solo and then return to the merry melody before the stop-on-a-dime ending. Snatchin' It Back, the second of four 'Cee Tee' originals on the disc, dates back to the 1960 Buddy Tate Swingville record Tate-A-Tate that matched up Tate and Terry with the stellar rhythm section of Tommy Flanagan, Larry Gales and Art Taylor. John and Clark blend beautifully on the leisurely paced bluesy melody and then alternate phrases before the tenorist blows the tune's first solo with a sound that in many ways recalls that of Tate and the great tenor men who preceded him in the Basie Band. Terry stretches out over Parrish's walking line, before the bassist gets his own outing, displaying a rich tone and pronounced lyricism. Tenor and trumpet return to exchange four bar phrases in an engaging game of tag and then improvise a chorus together before taking the tune Etta Jones makes her first appearance on the disc with Simon and the rhythm section, singing That Ole Devil Called Love, at the leader's request. He remembers, "We met in Jacquet's band, on a Carnegie Hall concert in 1994 and shared billing with Jacquet on various jazz festivals. Shortly after, she invited me to sit in with her band and we quickly became friends." Miss Jones puts her own spin on the Billie Holiday associated Doris Fischer/Allan Roberts chestnut. John's sensitive soft-toned obbligati recall the classic Lady Day-Lester Young collaborations (even quoting Pres in the tag at the end) and his solo displays a maturity that confirms his long experience. The quartet gets to shine on Fred, a rarely heard Neal Hefti composition that found it's way into the repertoire of Al Cohn, which is where Simon first heard it. His relaxed arrangement has the tune dancing a funky New Orleans second line rhythm that features Bobby Durham's happy beat. Clark rejoins the group for his Chat Qui Peche, another of his originals, first recorded with an octet on his great Color Changes Candid LP. The quintet, notably the rhythm section, swings brightly on the Autumn Leaves like line, with Clark soloing nicely muted over Parrish's walking bass and John following smoothly, exhibiting a fully developed style with his own personal sound and voice. Etta's back with the quartet on Sometimes I'm Happy, the song she chose to sing with the band. Here we hear the great vocalist's impeccable rhythmic command and soulful enunciation at her very best, with Simon and the rhythm section rising to the joyous occasion. Simon's originality and talent as an arranger is showcased on his rhythmic reworking of Cole Porter's I Concentrate On You, which is heard here as a samba. Porter's influence on Jobim and the other progenitors of modern Brazilian music was profound and the band's rendering of the former's classic illustrates just how closely the two are linked. Woody's Lament, by Al Cohn, is the late saxophonist's tribute to bandleader Woody Herman, in whose 'Herd' the largely unheralded composer/arranger first gained notoriety for his world-class writing skills. A staple of the latter day Herman songbook, Simon, with the quartet, puts his own stamp on the popular piece. Reminiscent of the song You Took Advantage of Me, John's smooth easy flowing tenor places him squarely in the lineage of swing to bop players like the composer. Former Herman trombonist Eddie Bert expands the group to a sextet for Joonji, the fourth and final Terry original on the disc. John's friendship with Eddie goes back to the mid-nineties when, as the saxophonist says," we both served under the 'Beast's' rule." Parrish's slow walking bass introduces the gospel-tinged piece on which first Bert, who's burnished tone has been heard with scores of greats, from Stan Kenton and Benny Goodman to Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, solos first, followed by Terry, Simon and Longo. Duke Ellington's Serenade To Sweden, a song long associated with Terry, gives the six man group a chance to swing brightly. Simon's skillful arrangement elicits the full sound of a big band from the ensemble, while leaving plenty of room for the soloists to stretch out freely. Clark's distinctive sound recalls his days with the Duke and John's gritty fat toned tenor is reminiscent of Ellington saxophonists Ben Webster and Paul Gonsalves. Bert once again is in fine form, as is Longo who finishes up the round of solos before the band returns to the happy head. The album ends appropriately with Simon's Saying Goodbye, the leader's one original composition on the date. Performed as a duet with Longo, the beauty of the saxophonist's sound and his improvisational prowess are clearly evident on this lovely coda, abounding with Ellingtonian elegance, to a most satisfying date. Russ Musto AllAboutJazz-New York.