If there is any one thing that defines Simon Barjona and his band, besides being one of the most captivating and extraordinarily talented group of performers to grace the current contemporary jazz scene, it is that the sextet have loads of class and groove, as the driving catalyst for Simon’s newest album, “Inspirementals” passionately demonstrates. The recording is a distinct and confident recording. The confidence can be viewed in light of the fact that Simon Barjona (Guitar, Keyboard, Bass), Alan Barjona (Drums), Cam’Ron Ballou Sr. (Drums), Greg Cox Jr. (Saxophone), Janette Regina Gibson (Saxophone) and Micheal Golden (Trumpet), never seem to raise the volume of their music to overwhelming levels, to compete like performers who feel the need to scream dominance over one another.
The members of this band go through the tracks on this recording with the confidence that the virtuosity and creativity of their musicianship and the quality of Simon Barjona & Alan Barjona’s compositions speak plenty loud enough.
From the funky opening of “What’s Poppin”, with Simon Barjona’s fiery electric guitar holding its own against the melodic sweep of the horns and the drive of the beat, to atmospheric swing of Janette Regina Gibson’s sax and the elegant throb of the bass guitar notes on “Siong”, this album shows itself to be an ear-friendly and grooving piece of art.
such as “Chillin” and “Jazz In Space” – the latter featuring Greg Cox Jr. on sax – have a supreme delicacy to them that places an emphasis on the intoxicating interplay between the musicians. Each of these tracks finds Simon Barjona setting the table for his band-mates with a noteworthy compositional and instrumental prowess.
Simon Barjona conducts his musical conversation like a musical chameleon and it’s this, as much as his outright technique, that makes me love his playing more, the longer I listen – whether that be the guitar, keyboards or bass. On “Wavelengths”, he is not only sublime, but also bold in his creativity, morphing the aural spectrum of the song drastically with a boisterous cinematic interlude just after the halfway mark.
Simon Barjona is a tasteful and soulful guitar player, and he amply demonstrates it on the rhythmic drawl of “Daydreaming”. If you expect strong composition, masterful playing and flawless production, let me tell you, you won’t be disappointed. But that’s not everything you get from this band: you get the combined experience of players who can, and do, play perfectly.
On “Blazin”, once again featuring the talents of Janette Regina Gibson on sax, Simon Barjona and crew choose to deliver a blend of rhythm and melody in a musical caress that etches your soul with full-hearted spirit. The album closes with “Free” – a piano and drum dominated template on which Barjona colors in the spaces with some ardent guitar motifs.
All-round “Inspirementals” is consistent, interesting, entertaining, and of exceptional quality. It contains excellent songwriting, arranging, playing and production levels. This is one of the best contemporary jazz albums I have heard in a long, long time!
MORE ABOUT: Simon Barjona is a musician and producer with roots in gospel. Simon started performing with his family gospel band, BARJONA, as a child and began producing projects for BARJONA as well as other artists as a teenager.
Influenced by his family and different soul, R&B, and pop artist; Simon began composing his own music as a teenager and expanding his musical education in college as a young adult, developing an eclectic style which pulls from gospel, jazz, classic rock, 70’s R&B, and neo-soul.
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