Simon will serve as Associate Artistic Director and release albums on Ridgeway Records including Edward Simon 25 in May 2020
The non-profit Bay-area Ridgeway Arts is brainchild of world renowned jazz bassist/vocalist/composer/educator Jeff Denson
Ridgeway Arts, Inc. the Bay-area nonprofit run by world renowned bassist/vocalist/composer/educator Jeff Denson, has named acclaimed Venezuelan pianist/composer Edward Simon as Associate Artistic Director. In this new role, Simon will work with Denson to help curate the various Ridgeway Arts programs, such as the concert presenting series, Ridgeway Arts Presents. Ridgeway Records will also release Simon's recordings including Edward Simon 25, a retrospective of his 25-year-career as a recording artist in May 2020 and a Solo Live album in 2021.
"I look forward to collaborating with Edward Simon as the new Associate Artistic Director of Ridgeway Arts," says Ridgeway founder and Executive Artistic Director Jeff Denson. "Edward is an exceptional artist, and I'm excited to see what we can come up with together!"
Simon agrees. "I'm ecstatic about the potential collaborations and projects that will come about as a result of my new role at Ridgeway Arts. I view this as an excellent opportunity to bring forth my vision as a recording artist, performer, producer and educator and I look forward to working with Jeff Denson and Ridgeway's outstanding team to build upon their significant accomplishments to date."
A multi-faceted San Francisco Bay Area-based non-profit, Ridgeway Arts, Inc. enhances and fortifies the Bay Area scene, and makes a strong contribution to the national landscape of jazz and the arts in general through educational and community outreach initiatives, concert presentations, and the release of exceptional recordings from established masters on Ridgeway Records and up-and-coming artists via Ridgeway Rising Stars. Since its founding in May 2016, the organization has presented some 40 concerts and educational workshops by internationally acclaimed artists such as Vadim Neselovskyi, Brian Blade, Kari Ikonen, Romain Pilon and more in Bay-area clubs, released 14 albums on Ridgeway Records and interviewed numerous artists for the On the Scene SF/O podcast on Ridgeway Radio.
"The arts are fundamental to our humanity," says Ridgeway founder and executive artistic director Jeff Denson. "They ennoble and inspire us — fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age."
Edward Simon, a native of Venezuela, has made a name for himself over decades in America as a jazz improviser, composer-arranger and band leader, with his profile heightening in recent years as he has explored the commonalities jazz can have with the folkloric sounds of Latin America. JazzTimes summed up his impact this way: "Simon is less talked about than many other important jazz pianists from the Caribbean and South America, but he may be the most complete creative artist among them." Based in the San Francisco Bay Area as a member of the all-star SFJAZZ Collective, he has been a Guggenheim Fellow along with being awarded multiple composition grants as part of the Chamber Music America's New Jazz Works initiative. Simon, a Yamaha artist, has recorded 15 albums as a leader or co-leader; his latest is Sorrows and Triumphs, released via Sunnyside Records in April 2018. This follows Simon's 2016 album Latin American Songbook, with the four-and-a-half-star DownBeat review praising its "grand and sophisticated" sound. Latin American Songbook also won Simon an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album. The New York Times has praised Simon's "light, warm touch" as a pianist, while Jazz Journal International singled out "his deep emotional statements" as a composer and improviser.
In 2019, Simon celebrates 30 years in the music industry. Throughout his illustrious career, Simon has collaborated with some of the most prominent jazz artists today including vocalists Lucian Souza, Gretchen Parlato and the acclaimed chamber ensemble Imani Winds. Edward Simon 25 offers an overview and an entryway into Simon's broad and multi-layered work as pianist and composer. The 2-CD set compiles tracks from his complete discography as a leader and co-leader spanning over 25 years. Included are selections from his acclaimed and influential recordings such as the New York Times Top Ten quartet album Edward Simon with Mark Turner, Adam Cruz and Larry Grenadier; the cutting-edge and Latin-infused La Bikina, the chamber-esque Venezuelan Suite, and Afinidad, the latter featuring his long-running virtuoso quartet with David Binney, Scott Colley, and Brian Blade. Also highlighted are his recent trio work with Adam Cruz and Joe Martin, and his all-star trio featuring John Patitucci and Brian Blade. The collection is rounded out with detailed liner notes by jazz journalist Ted Panken and quotes from Simon himself, as well as some of his closest collaborators, offering insights into his work from the artists' perspective. Most tracks will be remastered for an excellent and improved listening experience. A special double-album vinyl edition will be produced for vinyl lovers. Essentially, this compilation offers a great way to experience Simon's music, it is a must-have for Simon fans and the perfect introduction for those not yet familiar with his elegant and sophisticated music and playing.
A Washington, DC area native who freelanced heavily on the DC scene before heading to Berklee College of Music, Denson founded and toured internationally with the trio Minsarah for 15 years as well as touring and recording with legendary saxophonist Lee Konitz for over twelve years. Konitz says, "Jeff is an exceptional musician who is a creative force...He is always thinking outside the box and bringing his musicality and lyricism to all of his work." In addition to leading his own bands, Denson performs as part of The San Francisco String Trio with guitarist Mimi Fox and violinist Mads Tolling and with numerous musicians including Joe Gilman, John Fedchock, Susan Muscarella, Kenny Washington, Edward Simon, the Anton Schwartz Quartet and many more.
Denson relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2011 to become a professor at the California Jazz Conservatory where he now serves at Dean of Instruction. He released his first solo project, Secret World, in 2012 and has earned wide critical acclaim for his performances and recordings. DownBeat Magazine has cited Denson's "considerable gifts as an improviser, interpreter and sonic trailblazer..." earning him spots on the DownBeat International Critics Poll. Germany's Jazz Podium Magazine noted that "Denson is breaking new ground... (he is) one of the leading bassists of contemporary jazz." Denson has released fourteen albums as a leader or co-leader and performs in some 60 concerts annually with his own groups as well as with the San Francisco String Trio (Denson, guitarist Mimi Fox and violinist Mads Tolling, and others.
He also spearheads Ridgeway Arts, a nonprofit designed to enhance and fortify the Bay Area scene with educational initiatives, concert presentations and recordings released on Denson's Ridgeway Records label.
It's all part of Denson's quest to push his creative ability to its limits. "I've got so many ideas I want to try, and I don't want to put myself in any kind of box," he says. "Everything I do has a thread that runs through it—and that thread is me. It's who I am."