Simón Willson (b), Jacob Shulman (ts), Isaac Wilson (p), Jonas Esser (d)
Bar code: 8427328436595
I have always thought of musicians as curators, a long lineage of performers and composers who carefully choose what to borrow from whom and how to re-imagine it. In my pursuit I have also noticed natural tendencies and aesthetic inclinations that I might not have chosen, but rather have chosen me. This dichotomy shapes the eclecticism of the album, as there are diverse influences and intentions that carve who I am as a musician. I choose but I am also chosen.
In my music you will find a reciprocal relationship between the canonical and the new, one in which the new defines itself against what is already established, while at the same time the established reconfigures itself in response to the new. Where do my influences end and I begin? How close or far away are the opposites? In a band, setting, where do my bandmates end and I begin? I live for those blurry and rough barriers that are impossible to define. The relationship between new and old, looseness and tightness, intuition and intellect, maximalism and minimalism, freedom and structure, composition and improvisation, rawness and refinement, order and chaos dance together in this album. Sometimes I want to flicker a ligh and enter the void without necessarily having an exit strategy, while other times I want to have a plan and see it blossom from beginning to end.
For the last ten years I have been busy playing as a sideman to many projects, bringing other people’s compositions to life. Even though my work in those bands and records are true depictions of myself, the question of choosing what to say musically as a band leader and filtering out a big part of my personality was existential going into this project. This record is not about “I can do any gig” but about “this is my voice and these are my people”. Each composition is an experiment in the creation of its own world through the personal reimagination and juxtaposition of different elements from the musical and artistic idioms that I love. In my mind, this record is about Bach, Monk, and Buñuel hanging out at a beach in Brazil, Thom Yorke and Ornette drinking pisco at a dive bar in Santiago, Mingus and Roberto Bolaño sharing cigars in Havana, and Oscar Pettiford, Wilbur Ware, Thomas Morgan, and myself talking shop in NYC.
Isaac, Jonas and I played a gig in June 2022 where they showed me we could authentically combine our personalities and diverse histories to create a world bigger than ourselves. Not only did they help me express my own personality in the music, but they intensified it without losing themselves. I had thought about recording for a while, but the idea crystallized after that gig. They are my musical family, Good Company, if I have ever known it.
I also knew that there was an element missing, which is why I asked Jacob to be a part of the project. I have always loved his creativity, sensitivity, integrity, and his ability to challenge everything and everyone. I knew I needed him to break things down and question deep-seated beliefs that were holding me back.
Music has the rare quality of congealing different times and eras. This album is a tribute to the past, to masters I revere and cherish who have kept me in good company over the years. It is also a portrait of a certain present, a snapshot of several small decisions made in seconds by a living organism which is the quartet. Finally, it is a projection of an unknown future, the creation of a world that has not been inhabited yet. At this moment, this music is carving its path to you, the listener. I am grateful for your willingness to spin this record, and I invite you to live the musicmaking process through the ongoing reimagination and reinterpretation of this music. Hopefully we can be good company to you.
—Simón Willson Gazmuri
New York, Winter 2023
From the inside liner notes
"Bassist Simón Willson is originally from Cuba, but lives in New York City. He has eventually become an etterspurt sideman who has toured with a number of different musicians in Europe, the USA, Canada and South America. His extensive interest in various aspects of jazz and improvised music has led him to regularly work with musicians such as Dave Douglas, Ethan Iverson, Jason Palmer, Jonathan Kreisberg, Frank Carlberg, Roxana Amed, and the Marh Morris Dance Group, to name a few . In addition, he leads the bands Family Plan and Earprint. The latter won the «best debut album» category in the NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll in 2016. In 2023, Orlando Furioso, Vicente Atria's septet der Willson spiller bass, won the Deutscher Jazz Preis in the «Best International New Artist» category. He can be heard on over thirty records for record companies such as Sony Music, Tzadik, Greenleaf, Steeplechase, Newvelle and Endectomorph.
Now he's in place with a project together with pianist Isaac Wilson, drummer Jonas Esser and saxophonist Jacob Shulman, where we get 10 compositions by Wilson, where everything falls into the category of bands we've wanted to hear at a jazz club in New York.
The music fits nicely into the newer part of the acoustic jazz we often hear from New York. But the music is, all the way, rooted in the 60s, with excellent musicians like you helping to make this a great experience. It is always Willson who controls the music, which he does in an excellent way. He has exactly the right note in the bass, he is in fine balance with the other musicians, and his solos are excellent. Pianist Wilson listens to the ensemble playing, and delivers fine solos that enhance the overall impression. The drummer Esser is active where it is needed and waiting where it is needed, while Shulman's saxophone playing is often light in tone, so much so that I sometimes wonder if he has picked up the alto saxophone. But he is a name to be noticed, because he excels with excellent playing both in the tight songs, and in those where more creativity and free playing is required. Just listen to the ending «Loops», where he really excels with brilliant and raw spilling.
The compositions are fine, with clear references back a few years in time, but unlike a little too many of his colleagues from the Commonwealth of Nations, this sounds genuine and honest from start to finish. These are four musicians who thrive together, and who deliver brilliant music, and there is never any doubt that the title Good Company fits this release."
—Jan Granlie (December, 2023)