I have been fortunate to work with some of the best jazz musicians in New York's Capital Region for each of the Randy Simon Jazz Project recordings. They each play frequently at various venues in the area in a variety of different groups and I encourage you to go see them if you can.
The latest project (The Linda Sessions) features an outstanding sextet:
Rob Lindquist - piano
John Menegon - acoustic and electric bass
Danny Whelchel - drums and percussion
Kevin Barcomb - tenor and soprano sax
Dylan Canterbury - trumpet and flugelhorn
Chuck D'Aloia - guitar
Randy Simon is a physicist and businessman living in upstate New York who currently consults on various topics in renewable energy and hosts a daily radio segment on energy and the environment for WAMC Northeast Public Radio. He also moonlights as a jazz composer. Ten years ago, after decades of avidly listening to jazz and five years of studying jazz theory, he took up composing for jazz ensemble. The Randy Simon Jazz Project brings together some of the most accomplished talented jazz performers from New York's Capital Region to record Randy's tunes and instrumental arrangements.
For some guys, a mid-life crisis means buying a red sports car. For me, it meant becoming a jazz composer.
After being a fan of jazz all my life, I started taking jazz piano lessons when I inherited my parents’ grand piano. I gradually learned how to play tunes in a jazzy way – becoming acquainted with jazz chord voicings and changes. But the heart and soul of jazz is improvisation. Improvisation is like songwriting, but in real time. That takes more than creativity; it requires the ability to take the notes from your head and put them in your fingers – on the fly .
After struggling with that one for awhile, it occurred to me that I could slow the clock down by writing down my musical ideas rather than trying to play them on the spot. I always had new melodies rattling around in my head, but never bothered to write them down or otherwise preserve them. Then a small revelation: why not?
Pretty soon, my piano lessons became composing lessons and the tunes started flowing. Lucky for me, my piano teacher was a top-flight performing musician – Adrian Cohen - who knew and played with lots of other great performing musicians. As a result, my music could leave the narrow confines of my lead sheets and get played by really talented guys. Putting my tunes in the hands of great players has given them a life that I could only imagine. I have always loved hearing talented musicians improvising. Watching their creativity unfold starting from my own own compositions is a much greater thrill.
Over the ensuing years, my jazz projects have gotten more ambitious and more sophisticated. In my estimation, each one has been better than the previous one. My favorite recording in my discography always ends up being the latest one. In particular, each ensuing recording has been the result of a growing amount of participation on the part of the musicians in helping me to develop the tunes and get the most of out them. Their enthusiastic participation and creative contributions have greatly enhanced the music. Apart from that, the newest projects always best reflect the evolution of my writing.
I try to write jazz tunes with distinctive and (hopefully) memorable melodies so that people can come away with something more than just an appreciation of the impressive musicianship they just heard. Personally, I have always liked listening to jazz musicians playing standards because you can really appreciate the creativity of improvisation when you have a clear idea of where the players are starting from. I try to recreate that experience with new music by writing tunes that can stand on their own apart from the improvisation that goes along with them.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to link up with some of the best musicians and audio engineers in the region. Slowly building this network has been what has allowed me to pursue this most unusual hobby. In recent years, Rob Lindquist has been my primary mentor in developing my music for these recordings. I am grateful to all of these people for enabling me to continue to develop my musical ideas into fully realized recordings.
Musicians appearing on earlier RSJP albums include
Adrian Cohen - piano
Pete Bellino - trumpet and flugelhorn
Paul Borrello - vibes
Mike DelPrete - bass
Lee Russo - tenor sax
George Muscatello - guitar