Picks and Pans Review: Open Book

updated 08/26/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/26/1991 01:00AM

Fred Simon

Jazz fusion is an orphan, scoffed at by purists of all persuasions. But when it's done as well as this record by Chicago composer-pianist Simon, you get the best of both worlds: the coy, pretty side of pop with the more sophisticated instrumentation and arrangements of jazz.

That admixture is manifest on the title track, a stirring anthem Simon takes through a number of variations, gaining momentum with each unexpected turn. But using that most versatile of instruments, the acoustic piano, as a foundation, Simon explores many moods on this record.

There's the soaring sentimentality of "Home," the quiet "Thanks, Pardner," which takes off on a western tangent, and the tart funkiness of Josef Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (a Buckinghams hit in 1967).

For those who fondly recall the fusion frisson that was generated by such past albums as Pat Metheny's American Garage, take note: There's a new musical physicist in town. (Columbia)

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