ELLEN PRIEST
“Jazz: Edward Simon’s Venezuelan Suite #1-23” is a nearly five-year body of large paintings I completed from 2006-2010. Pianist/composer Edward Simon’s music brings Venezuelan song forms and rhythms into jazz in a four-movement piece commissioned by Chamber Music America.

In February 2007, Simon’s 7-piece jazz Ensemble Venezuela performed the full Suite in the Main Gallery at the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania in the midst of my solo exhibition, “Ellen Priest: Jazz Paintings on Paper: Improvisations on the Venezuelan Suite”. That exhibition included the first ten pieces in my series.

Quoting from Simon’s liner notes in his 2013 studio recording of the Venezuelan Suite:

“Ever since I discovered--or, I should I say, rediscovered--the music of my homeland, I’ve been fascinated by its sheer beauty... Venezuelan music reflects in its myriad forms the sounds of the various ethnic groups that make up its inhabitants, a confluence predominantly of indigenous, Spanish and African peoples.

“Over time, my growing interest led me to want to delve more deeply and explore the possibility of integrating my cultural heritage into my practice in a more holistic manner... to create a work which fuses Venezuelan music’s infectious rhythms and lyricism with the richness and interplay of jazz harmony and improvisation...

“My Venezuelan Suite takes the listener through four of the principal genres of Venezuelan music, with each of its movements based on a single rhythm or song form and each named after a city generally associated with it. “Barinas”, the birthplace of many folk music patriarchs, is based on a joropo, Venezuela’s lively national rhythm and dance. “Caracas” is based on the intricately syncopated merengue in 5/8 time. “Mérida”, named after the picturesque city in the Andes, is written in the style of a Venezuelan waltz. And “Maracaibo” is based on a gaita, a style traditionally played during Christmas time.”

About Simon’s music: www.edwardsimon.com










ELLEN PRIEST Jazz: Edward Simon’s Venezuelan Suite #1 © 2006, Oil and flashe on collaged paper, 42” x 42”