Pianist and composer Ross Garren currently lives in the Los Angeles area. A student of classical composition and jazz piano at USC’s Thornton School of Music, his accolades include having won the 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2008 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer’s Competitions, receiving recognition from Downbeat magazine’s 2005 and 2007 Student Music Awards for his talents as an arranger and composer, and having garnered many awards for his skills as a pianist from such organizations as IAJE and the Monterey Jazz Festival.
As a performer Garren has worked with Charlie Musselwhite, James Cotton, Lee Oskar, Mark Hummel, and Sonny Jr., and played at venues like the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Umbria Jazz Festival, IAJE Convention, Montreal Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, the Jazz Bakery, and Catalina’s Bar and Grill. As a teacher he has taught workshops for the Harmonica Masterclass Workshop as well as having been a lecturer for the Monterey Bay Blues Festival and California State University Monterey Bay.
The best introduction one can make about the music on Elision is that Garren’s interest, compositionally, is creating improvisational looks at the music of Debussy, Ravel, and Bartok. In the liner notes Garren states, "The initial idea was to approach this music like a chamber musician might approach Western concert music." With the use of a violin and cello brought into Garren’s traditionally oriented quintet (tenor saxophone, guitar, piano, bass, drums), and with their written lines sounding very Chick Corea-ish circa My Spanish Heart, the line between jazz and classical music is blurred throughout.
Make no mistake, however, this music is jazz. Whether it’s spaced-out time-out-of-mind rubato figurations as on "Soldier’s Lament," or lightly swinging as on "Chrysalis," or introspective as on "Falling Apart," the entire Gestalt is one of thoughtful and purposeful jazz composition. It’s not the improvisations that impress on this disc, it’s the way Garren is able to put the timbres and lines together that deserves attention. Brooding at one moment, and building in terms of tension and risk at the next, Garren is well versed in handling many different conceptualizations. This isn’t a new thing, especially if you add all of the Third-Stream music from the 1960s into the mix, but Garren does show promise as a young composer.