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Ron Surace

Nearly Blue

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For his second foray into Southport's recording studios, pianist Ron Surace continues to rely on his own compositions to make the program. And like his first outing, the music retains that cool splendor and that smooth suaveness that makes his music so engaging in these days of electronic-generated contemporary jazz. While still working in a quartet format, its makeup is changed for this session. Eric Schneider's tenor replaces Ryan Shultz's bass trumpet. Surace is rather unique as a leader and provider of the musical agenda. Instead of constructing the material to emphasize his pianism, his writings favor the horn member of the group, this time the tenor sax. Whether it be on the swinging, slightly boppish "Cheap Skate" or the almost Latinized "Modal Mania," it's Schneider who is usually out in front. This doesn't mean that everyone else just sits by, passively supporting the sax player. To the contrary, they get plenty of opportunity to get licks in. This is a collegial undertaking with Schneider first among equals. Listen to Surace's surging piano on "Riff Raff" and Michael Arnopol's bass and Rusty Jones' telling drums breaks, all worked in around Schneider's dazzling sax work, to get the idea how Surace's performing cooperative works. Another change from his first outing, albeit it subtle, is that harmonies tend to be somewhat more complex as evidenced by the lilting "Visitor." Some excellent bass by Michael Arnopol is heard on this track. As engrossing as Surace's music is, one wishes to hear what he would do with classic standards, given his arranging skills. Perhaps next time out. In the meantime, this album is another worthy chapter in the artistic life of an exceptional practitioner of mainstream jazz. Recommended.

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