Arts and Culture | Local

Jazz piano to open JFSA Northwest campaign

Jon Simon

Jazz composer and performer Jon Simon will headline an evening of music and dining on Tuesday, Nov. 27 to launch the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona Northwest Division’s annual campaign.

Simon tours North America performing selections from his ninth and latest album, “SOAR,” as well as five highly successful recordings of jazz interpretations of Jewish music.

The first of those albums, he told the AJP, was inspired by listening to holiday music on the car radio. The DJ, he says, played Christmas songs in a variety of styles, “jazz versions, rock versions, all sorts of interesting treatments.” Then, in honor of it being the first night of Hanukkah, the DJ put on “a very traditional ‘Rock of Ages’ — very stiff.” Simon went home and “began noodling around on the piano,” coming up with his version of “Rock of Ages,” which became the first track on his “New Traditions” album.

To his surprise, it struck a nerve, Simon says, leading to calls to perform and to record more albums.

Simon grew up in Rochester, New York, where his family attended a Conservative synagogue, Temple Beth El. He credits both Cantor Samuel Rosenbaum and the Eastman School of Music, where he went through the college prep program, with fostering his musical success.

But music is an avocation for Simon, who explains that while studying composition at the University of Michigan, he decided to be more practical and switch his career focus to business and engineering. He divides his time between composing and performing music and serving as a senior executive and consultant for various companies around the country.

For a while, he let the music lapse. “At the urging of my wife I got back in the studio,” he says, producing his first album, “Images and Inspirations,” which featured compositions for solo piano. That was followed by “New Traditions.”

The Washington Post calls Simon’s music “harmonically sophisticated and hauntingly beautiful.” His other albums include the highly regarded “Beatles on Ivory” and “From Broadway to Hollywood,” which includes selections from “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Yentl,” “Schindler’s List,” and the Yiddish theater.

Simon appears frequently at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, Merkin Recital Hall in New York, and the Concord Resort in the Catskills. He has performed his jazz interpretations of Jewish music at the U.S. Senate and for the ambassador at the Israeli Embassy, at one of the inaugural galas for President Clinton, and at concert halls, jazz clubs, synagogues and community centers throughout North America. “Moment Magazine” voted Simon among its Top 10 Jewish Instrumental Performers.

JFSA’s evening with Simon will be held at The Buttes at Reflections, 9800 N. Oracle Road in Oro Valley. No-host sunset cocktails with complimentary appetizers at 5 p.m. will precede the three-course dinner and performance at 6 p.m. Tickets are $45 per person; RSVP by Nov. 23 at www.jfsa.org/northwestcampaignkickoff2019. For more information, call 505-4161 or email northwestjewish@jfsa.org.

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