Ron Surace

The New Cool

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Ron Surace's jazz credentials have been primarily in the field of jazz education. He taught for 20 years at Jacksonville State University, setting up the jazz program there. Now he can practice what he has been preaching with his first album for Chicago's Southport label. Of the 12 Surace originals, eight were written with the bass trumpet especially in mind. Ryan Shultz plays this rarely heard instrument -- Cy Touff is the most prominent practitioner of this instrument in jazz -- and acquits himself handsomely throughout as he adds smooth, rich accents to the music. The Surace compositions certainly promote the concept of cool. They are subdued, laid-back, and introspective, recalling some of the great members of that particular school of music such as Lester Young, Art Pepper, and Miles Davis, although the playing of Surface and his group is not as detached as some of his predecessors. One also hears a touch of Erroll Garner, especially on "Jazz Ballad." The influence of Bill Evans can be heard in "Sky Blue," which has a few chords that seem to be borrowed from Evans' "Waltz for Debby." One of the more engaging pieces is "Little Red," with Shultz' funky muted horn showing the way, aided and abetted by well-placed drum breaks by Rusty Jones as Surace's piano swirls around the melody line. Surace successfully incorporates all the usual jazz forms into his writings -- Latin, waltz, ballad, some blues, and trad jazz -- and presents them in a variety of time sequences. The result is music with character, shape, substance, and meaning, a far cry from the limpid material being turned out these days. This is an excellent first outing, and one hopes others will follow. Recommended.

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