Simon Says is Delaware native Todd Simon's debut as a leader, and what a sparkling debut it is. He assembled a ten-piece band comprised of top-notch players from the Baltimore area as well as some talented colleagues from the U.S. Naval Academy Band to perform his set of original music. The style and energy they brought to this recording resulted in a stellar performance that will delight casual listeners and devoted jazz fans alike.
Liner Notes from Todd:
McCoy’s Mode, is, not surprisingly, named after the great McCoy Tyner. The main inspiration for this song was the title track from his trio album Inception. I also decided to pay tribute to some other McCoy Tyner compositions with quotes from Effendi, Passion Dance, and Three Flowers. I wrote this tune during my junior year at Peabody, while I was playing alto sax in the Lab Band!
Wii Three was composed during my tenure as the lobby pianist for the BWI Marriott. The title is a double reference - the opening rhythmic passage was based off of the repeating figure that plays in the background of the Wii Sports! bowling game. I’m also giving a humble nod to Roy Haynes’ We Three album, which features the legendary pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr.
Amalgam is so named because the tune is a mixture of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic elements from various jazz standards. You’ll find allusions to Lush Life, Beatrice, Nica’s Dream, Bolivia, and probably some more that I’m forgetting.
The Great Lakes Suite is a musical diary of sorts; it chronicles the time I spent in Recruit Training Command, which is the official title for Navy boot camp. Every enlisted member of the Navy starts their career there, enjoying 8 weeks of fun in Northern Illinois.
The 1st movement’s opening theme is the cadence that was sung by recruits as we marched to various locations. The melody in the 2nd movement popped into my head while I was waiting around for an appointment; such daydreaming often occurs during the interminable “hurry up and wait” periods which are inevitable in military service. The 3rd movement channels the anger and frustration felt during the most trying times, especially the intense punitive workouts and other harsh assignments: the sinus-clearing “confidence chamber,” tense weapons training, sleep deprivation - you know, the good stuff! The 4th movement captures the feeling of simply counting down the days until you are out of there.
Despite not having access to a piano, I actually wrote much of this suite while at boot camp, frantically scrawling musical ideas in my spiral notebook during some of the precious few hours we had to ourselves each week (or covertly during other times). This fascinated my fellow recruits in Division 021, who were eager to hear the finished product. Well, here it is, shipmates – this one’s for you!
TIQOLA! is an acronym for The Inexorable Quality of Life, Aaaaah! This song somehow evolved out of a performance of Feliz Navidad during one of my many solo piano stints at the American Tap Room in Bethesda, MD. This was also the last arrangement that I made for this recording, and I finished it just in time, too – the band didn’t see their parts until we went into the recording studio! (By the way: great job, guys. You are sight-reading champs.)
Simon Says was originally written as part of an assignment to craft a bebop blues head for Tim Murphy’s Jazz Theory and Arranging class at Peabody; I later expanded it to the version heard here. The extended unison soli was inspired by the great Bill Holman arrangement of Just Friends.
Bedtime Story pays homage to ‘70s-era Herbie Hancock tunes. The classic Tell Me a Bedtime Story is a personal favorite, hence its prominent influence here. I also wanted to end the song with a distinct Fat Albert Rotunda feel. I guess you could say it’s an all hands on deck (sorry, had to) group improvisation, which the band really gets into. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!