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The Mark Simon Trio
October 16, 2009

Mark Simon- Piano
Leah Hinchcliff- Acoustic Bass
Dave Averre- Drums

Mark is a solid jazz player with a strong affinity for Soul Jazz, and a powerful imagination.  He calls this his premium trio, and the one he’s the proudest of.

To quote one of the best pianists in the world, “I’ve heard Mark Simon from time to time over the years, and I am struck by how he’s grown into such a poised and mature musician.”
- Dave Frishberg, Grammy award-winning Pianist and Composer
From Mark’s website- www.marksimonmusic.com.

Leah has made her mark as a powerful player on both electric and acoustic bass.  She is exceptional in her role as the bassist for Soul Vaccination.  She also writes, arranges and provides private lessons.  Dave is a very subtle and aware accompanist and a solid soloist.  He is the go to guy, and has recorded and played with Tall Jazz, and many national and international artists, all over the world.  He has a cool bio at www.talljazz.com

Most readers will be aware of the great jazz venue, Wilf’s and their consistent support of jazz music.  The food is very good, and the drinks are always done right.  The grand piano is one of the few among our jazz venues, and the curved brick performance space is one of the nicest we have, and you can depend on a great schedule of jazz.  Check out their website at www.wilfsrestaurant.com.

Mark’s original compositions are always interesting, welcoming and warm.  His arrangements of the jazz repertoire and his excellent solo chops always make me glad I’ve made it when I attend his club dates.

He started the first set with an original, which he said was ‘What They Say’, a deep slow blues.  Nice chemistry between the players.  Mark had told me in his invitation that this trio rehearses weekly whether or not they have a gig, and the work has paid off.

The beautiful intro to the next song was in a calypso beat, and soon the theme was evident, ‘Make Someone Happy’!  One of the marks of a strong piano player is the power of unison lines, one from each hand.  Mark used these to state the theme, then stepped aside for the first solo, by Dave.  Extremely subtle course in calypso beat.  One thing both Mark and Dave share is the ability to leave space between notes.  This allows the emotion and purpose of a phrase and the whole song to come through.

Next was another original called ‘Caramel Creek’.  Intro was infused with a slightly melancholy feel, with a few blue notes. The melody line, though pensive, was very warm and sweet.  Beautiful accompaniment on Dave’s part, with brushes .  The theme was warm and uplifting, like nearly all of Mark’s originals.  Even romantic, one would have to say.  The song came in three movements, and the middle section involved very large spaces, counted out by Mark, as the others waited, allowing a tension to build, signifying some emotion hanging in the air from the first movement.  Slowly Dave brought back the rhythm, and was joined quietly by Leah on bass, and the Them was back them a short out-tro.

Next was the Hank Mobley tune, ‘This I Dig of You’.  I sense an attachment in Mark to the East coast style of jazz, and here it is explored with strong devotion.  Dave Averre is just elegant.

Next piece was ‘Bohemia After Dark”.  There is a strong sense of the Soul Jazz Philly root here.  Very Bluesy, too.  Mark is also rooted in a deep elegance, not much for flash or pyrotechnics, just style and subtlety, lots of dynamics, sauce and sexiness.

On the wonderful standard, ‘This Will Be My Shining Hour’, Mark’s intro is strikingly beautiful, and his thematic statement was sparse, leaving a bunch of space for the band sound to come through.  Wonderful!

Next is the original by Mark, ‘Glad Bags’, dedicated to who else, but Milt Jackson; a very soulful tribute, indeed.  Then we get another Simon original, ‘Simon Says’.  The most assertive composition I’ve heard by Mark.  I keep missing a larger band when I hear it.  Where is the tenor sax soloist, the trombone section?  Oh, well, I guess I need to be patient.

At the break, Karla Harris showed up.  I have heard her sing with his exceptional accompaniment before, and I knew we were likely in for a treat!

Sure enough, after the short break and a couple warm up pieces, ‘Yardbird Suite’ (in Calypso!), and the original ‘Song for My Grandparents’, which was in mixed tempo’s, here comes Kalra with the Bill Withers tune, ‘Somebody To Lean On’.  This was easily the best arranging I’ve ever heard from Mark, and it was a show stopper!  Karla is a strong singer, and a shooting star at this point.  I have watched her very assertive rise over the last few years, and I will try not to miss her gigs from now on!

I had to leave and miss the rest of this gig, but I know it was great.  I have a strange early morning schedule, so the early start time of 7:30 helps a lot. 

Jim Corcoran


Copyright 2008, Jazz Society of Oregon