Currently Band Director at St. Jude the Apostle School in Atlanta, Jeff Andrew Simpson has been a jazz performer and educator for close on fifteen years, and that is rather evident from this, his first recording. Not too many performers are willing to wait that long before putting out a CD but by doing so, and by surrounding himself with artists of this caliber, Simpson has ensured that his first statement is an artistically mature one.
Simpson grew up in a jazz-rich environment, being the son of DJ and concert promoter Jack Simpson, through whom he met musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Ira Sullivan, the latter acting as something of a mentor to him. Studies at the University of North Florida with Bunky Green et. al. and then at South Florida with Chuck Owen earned him a Masters in Jazz Composition, after which he embarked on a career as a jazz performer, since 1999 in Atlanta.
All of this experience has been brought to bear on this recording. He performs on soprano, alto and tenor as well as flute, and ten of the compositions are his. His writing is fresh and interesting, his playing clear and direct, a no-nonsense approach right out of the hard bop tradition, with a particularly full-bodied sound on tenor, leavened by a pleasing flute tone applied mostly to lighter, Latin-based compositions where that instrument often seems most at home. Marcus Printup's trumpet is very welcome as a foil for Simpson and the rhythm section is excellent throughout, with O'Connell's two-fisted piano leading the way. Adding Romero Lubambo's guitar and Rolando Guerrero's percussion to Simpson's flute on Penumbra
and The Teacher
is a nice touch, although Allan Harris' vocal on Daddy's Lullaby
seemed slightly out of place to me--just a personal preference--the song is nicely arranged and well delivered.
I am constantly surprised by the number of artists with largely local followings who, like Jeff Andrew Simpson, produce work of a very high standard which they have to produce and distribute independently. They deserve our support.