Friday, March 26, 2021
Fred Simon and Michael Bard, a pianist and multiple reedman respectively who' ve been around jazz circles in seeming anonymity the past few years, here emerge from relative obscurity with their first record Musaic It's a release that plays-it-safe: the melodies are pleasant and draw on a number of recognizable sources, the rhythm section does its chores competently, and the solos display the requisite knowledge of technique. But, the music never takes chances. Technical competence aside, the moves are second guessed and have a familiarity to them not unlike a song you've heard too often for too long and desire nothing less than to be rid of the tune for your remaining lifetime. It does not move this listener, who may be accused both of jazz snobbery and, no doubt, of having listened to too much solos that have more to do with practice than performance. To restate, the skill is is high among the particulars, but this is more paycheck than pay off. Simon and Bard s insistence on maintaining a· status quo - their sources sound like an overly-familiar crossbreeding of Paul Winter, Oregon and Brubeck: with a dash of Ellington thrown in for good measure - makes the stuff on Musaic merely run of the mill. Even Larry Coryell's appearance on the funk jam "Fancy Frog" fails to rise this effort above the level of shallow breathing. Coryell is his generation's essential jazz guitar innovator who has recorded an impressive array of off-the-grid improvisations in an increasingly restrictive jazz-pop-rock genre. Simon and Bard's preference for the most somnambulant variation on that once galvanic arena seems to lull the guitarist into an uncharacteristic mellowness. The music is not atrocious. It's nice and would make the ideal backdrop for when your mother was over for dinner. This is the music you put on when you're loading the dishwasher.