The young man with the knowing smile above — and trust me, he already knows much more than me about a growing pile of stuff — is my son, Ethan. He plays piano and keyboards. His professional debut was at Sidney’s Lounge on St. Bernard Avenue in New Orleans, where the estimable Kermit Ruffins, tending bar that night, made him sit and play four songs on the battered upright. He nervously gave up two Fess standards and some Fats Domino. He was fourteen. Somewhere on the internet, if you google Ethan Simon, you’ll find an audition video of him playing bop for admission to an summer jazz camp. He goes to work on Kern’s “All The Things You Are” and Charlie Parker’s “Now Is The Time.” He was seventeen then.
He’s now just shy of his twenty-first birthday, and his band, The Intrinsics, of Cambridge, Mass. and whatever parts of greater Boston require the services of a Memphis-style soul outfit, has just dropped its first recordings.
For those doing the math, this means that apart from all the fixed and certain father-son pride that ordinarily prevails, I have had the additional pleasure, the lagniappe if you will, of watching my kid grow as a musician for nearly a decade. Those who know my overbearing love of American music will hear no hyperbole when I say that I couldn’t be more proud if this kid rolled into Yale Law or an internship at Goldman Sachs. Actually, if you really know me, you’ll understand that I am having trouble conjuring alternate post-graduation paths of glory, as the ones I just mentioned would vaguely shame much of my left-leaning family tree. I don’t know if music will be the life he chooses; I do know that making people dance is always rightful endeavor. In these times, especially so.
Anyway, the first two tracks below are composed by Mr. Simon and Rachel Horn, the alumna with whom he carefully retooled a Motown-heavy campus band into grittier, horn-heavy R&B outfit. Following those tracks are a workup of the ballad “Killing Me Softly,” and the Irma Thomas classic, “Wish Someone Would Care.”
I’m going to expend one more paragraph to thank three fellows who, in the following order, got hold of my son when he was flaming out on a diet of Mozart and Chopin and ready, at age twelve, to chuck the piano for the guitar, or girls, or video games or whatever. Davis Rogan, thank you for teaching him the New Orleans rolls of Fess and Fats. Lafayette Gilchrist, thank you for so carefully mentoring him in jazz improvisation and composition. And Tom McDermott, thank you for showing him that of which a left hand is capable, and, more important, just how much precision and dedication there is to the entire musical journey. But mostly, congrats, Ethan. If your grade-point average skims anywhere above a 3.0, I’ll know you guys aren’t rehearsing enough.
The rest of The Intrinsics:
NADIA URREA VOCALS.
JEREMY SABATH VOCALS+TROMBONE.
TREE PALMEDO TRUMPET
BEN SOBEL TENOR SAX
JOHN BASS TOURNAS BARI+ALTO SAX
ALEX GRAFF GUITAR
JORDAN LAGANA BASS
MAX SEISS AUX PERCUSSION
MATT GOLD DRUMS
And if you need a professional R&B outfit for an event anywhere near Boston, visit the website where these tunes are also embedded, along with their performing schedule and other info: www.intrinsicsband.com. And once there, as Eddie Floyd so aptly put it, if there’s something you need, just raise your hand.
Off The Record (Music and Lyrics by Ethan Simon and Rachel Horn)
Shoulda Known Better (Music and Lyrics by Ethan Simon and Rachel Horn)
Killing Me Softly (Written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel)
I Wish Someone Would Care (Written by Irma Thomas)
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Not sure if Ethan has shared with you videos of their live gigs, but my wife and I have, for the past 3 years, tried to be in-loco-parentis by attending and recording as many of their gigs as possible so that they could be viewed by friends and family too far away to attend (we’re the guitarist’s head groupies). My amateur status as videographer is blatant in my youtube uploads, but hope you can get some enjoyment from them. Here is their latest gig, opening for the California Honeydrops (who themselves are touring as Bonnie Raitt’s opening act) at the Middle East in Cambridge.
The other videos can be found amongst those listed on my channel page:
We are so grateful to Ethan for creating this amazing musical opportunity that has become not merely a band of musicians, but a true band of brothers and sisters!!
All the best!!
Where has the time gone?!
I remember him before short pants!
Kvell away – such a blessing!
Your Yiddishkeit is coming along nicely, Mr. Disney….
Thanx David—for this. The music is super. And Ethan adorable. What talent!
Going off topic, sorry Simon… :
“…It is true that local governments are horribly dysfunctional (the local police in New Haven walks being ridiculous these days), and certainly slums are horrible places, but The Wire is obviously fiction. Even Baltimore is as dysfunctional as it appears in the series; There despair and bureaucracies are incredibly clumsy, but the series is a dramatic exaggeration. The tone and the problems are real, but life in these neighborhoods is rather boring in the world of fiction. David Simon, creator of the series, is also a peculiar type with obsessive phobias, so it has things that have to do with some caution….”
Hi Simon, what do you think about this comment on The Wire? Is it true that The Wire is a “dramatic exaggeration”? Is it true that the Baltimore portrayed is not as dysfunctional as seen in episodes of The Wire?
Did your son get to hang with you down in N.O. during Treme? The whole damn city is a conservatory.
Some. He loves New Orleans. Hard to be a musician and feel otherwise.
Indeed. I grew up playing percussion in the Southwest and while it does have a lot of great music, going to New Orleans was like losing my musical virginity.
Second-line beat. It’s magical.
Wish Someone Would Care…indeed. Going off topic. What dya think about Bill Maher’s tribulations regarding islamaphobia. Poor chap is being put through a wringer.
You are off topic, truly.
I’m not following those tribulations in any event.
Man, it’s very inspiring to see people born in the 1990s producing this kind of music. Also, Nadia is a ridiculously good vocalist
Ayoo. Some fantabulous numbers here.
Get thee to Bandcamp so those abroad can purchase.
I’d love to post a picture here of myself with Eddie Floyd from about 25 years ago. Long story made short: When the STAX recordings were re-issued as a box set, a small soul club in NYC (The Empire State Soul Club) hosted a crazy thing: The usual most month’s dance at the North River Bar was attended by Eddie Floyd, Rufus and Carla Thomas and a few others I’m failing to recall now. Eddie sang along with himself on the 45 of both “Knock On Wood” and “Big Bird.” “Raise Your Hand” might have been there too. Anyway. I don’t think I can attach my image, but you get the picture. Your son and the group sound great. Thanks for helping me to take a trip back in my mind…
I gotta say, The Intrinsics are dope. Come back to Louisiana and play more Mr. Young Simon.
A bit surprised that Simon’s son goes to Harvard… Really looking forward to Show Me a Hero! Oscar Isaac is pretty awesome.
Nice tribute to Marvin Gaye on “Shoulda Known Better”. Both “What’s Going On” and “Can I Get a Witness.”
Well, I’ll be . . . I left UMBC & Baltimore for LA & Texas & SF in ’92 and never knew what Lafayette was up to. I’ve got catching up . . .
Upon graduating, he should come to Austin! How fun to have a talented musician in the family. Love their music. Interesting pattern I’ve noticed. Larry McMurtry’s son, James, is a great musician here in Austin, Joe Lansdale’s daughter, Kacy, is a rising singer, songwriter. Now your son. What leads a child to choose song tracks over chapters?
What a lovely time I had, listening to these few tracks really brought some joy here.
Congratulations to the whole family for the wonderful contributions to the arts of storytelling and music.
Greetings from Paris, France.
So many good things came out of “Treme”–for both us and your family. Here’s to many fun, music-making, mind-blowing performing years for Ethan.
It looks like your boy is as talented as his Dad! I am very happy for you both !
Dad can barely play a lick.
Hunter Thompson said that a well crafted paragraph was as sonorous to him as good music… (he was thinking of Conrad)
I think something like that is what was alluded to by this “talent” comment.
And now I’m off to listen to your scion’s dirges.
I know. And it was kind to say. But if I could play Monk voicings or the gospel chording of Ray Charles a third as well as him, I’da never written a sentence.
Then we’d never have all enjoyed your book, Homicide-LOTS, The Wire, or Treme!!!!
Ha! Now, Ain’t That A Shame came on my little spinner the other day whilst I was driving. How could somebody not love that?
This here is a sacred calling, Mr. Simon.
Your son has joined the most honest of all artists.
A Painter hopes you see the detail. A Writer hopes you get the topic.
An Actor hopes to get paid…
But a Musician. It just comes all out; nice and pure and right.
I have a great many friends who are musicians – they’re practically the only people I can trust!
I might be buried to the strains of “Let The Four Winds Blow.” The Mourner’s Kaddish first, because nothing can follow Fats on a bill.
A fine way to go! Try to go out on a major, I say.
But no “You are what you is” at the wake? I thought you might have a bit of Zappa going on…
However, *something* runs in the family, right? Isn’t your nephew in Dead Meadow? I still occasionally rock my old Impossible Five records – they had a fantastic sound.
The Impossible Five! You do go back.
Check out Jason’s solo release, as well as “Old Testament.” Very proud of him.