The trumpeter Michael Simon, who has done his filial – as well as instrumental – dynasty proud has done it again. The shape-shifting musician and instrumentalist has, this time around, released an album, Destiny’s Will that was recorded live at No Black Tie, an iconic club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Two things emerge here: first that Jazz has spread far and wide, even to places that you would not normally associate with the music, and second that Simon is a true ambassador of the music, ever-willing to get down and boogie with talent wherever he finds it. In this instance it is a group of musicians virtually unknown outside their country. And the results are magical.
Let it be put on record that these Malaysian musicians all-but-steal the record from Michael Simon. They are that talented. Not only that, but listeners will hear some marvellous music – almost all of it exquisitely written by Malaysian musicians. Try ‘Getaran Jiwa’ for size. This is a piece of extremely rare beauty, a ballad composed by Malay musicians P. Ramlee and S. Sudarmaji, whose tune alone is worth the purchase of this album. On that tune you will also hear Michael Veerapen, the featured pianist whose effortless gossamer touch is among the most beautiful I’ve heard on a Jazz album anywhere in the world. Of course Veerapen’s are not the only interpretations of other traditional and contemporary tunes on the album, that are at once poetic, luxuriant and emotionally compelling. He’s not the only musician who shines; they all do including the mesmerising guest vocalist – Jasmine Chen.
Make no mistake, however, this is an album that holds a torch to the technical prowess and audacious originality of Michael Simon. Throughout this extraordinary performance – recorded live, remember – instrument, music, performer and recording merge most sublimely. Simon’s tone is bright, (softer and beckoning on flugelhorn) and expressed in tonal colours that trace lines of congruence between pitch and form that make for an opulent, sensual and mystical aura. He accomplishes this through an almost uncanny variety of touch, tone production and judicious use of crystalline glissandos. His irresistible nervous energy animates the players around him, who pick up on his edgy brilliance and match his performance with expressive playing of their own.
After all of this spectacular playing nothing surprises me anymore. Not the superb recording by Malaysian engineer Juan Wan, or the wholesome acoustics of No Black Tie, the club where this recording was made. Neither should it be too much to assume that Evelyn Hii, owner of the club and the label on which this release is made, will serve up more delectable fare with or without Michael Simon.
Track List: Your Collar; Jasmine Flower; Getaran Jiwa; Juah Juah; Your Man; Does He Know Or Not; Destiny’s Will; The Guessing Song.
Personnel: Michael Simon: trumpet and flugelhorn; Patrick Terbrack: alto and tenor saxophones; Michael Veerapen: piano; Daniel Foong: bass; John Ashley Thomas: drums; Jasmine Chen: vocals.
Label: No Black Tie Records
Release date: October 2015
Running time: 1:03:41
Buy album: amazon
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