You won’t find many references to Ron Surace within current jazz volumes but that isn’t important. The printed pages often omit outstanding players until they have gained a certain amount of popularity. Why are we not aware of this outstanding jazz performer? I’m at a loss to explain but, as a jazz journalist, I’m as guilty as anyone.
Ron Surace’s fourth CD for Southport Records arrived in my mailbox a couple of days ago. From the moment I played the first track, I knew that I’d have to learn more about this Chicago pianist and his sidemen. Here’s what I was able to dig up via the various search engines on the web. Surace is a jazz educator and performer who presently lives in the Chicago area (Evanston) and emerges from studies at several prestigious institutions including Oberlin, Cincinnati College and Northwestern. He studied with George Shearing at the latter. Ron Surace has played with a number of stellar big bands, Ray McKinley, Glenn Miller Orchestra, Bob Crosby, Ralph Martieri and Si Zentner among them.
Presently he appears with his own trio, quartet and his In Full Swing Band. Ron’s bassist Tatsu Aoki and drummer Dave Pavkovic have worked together for a decade and with the Surace trio for five years. These folks really click together and anticipate each other perfectly. That’s part of what makes this unit a great trio.
Surace and his cohorts do great things with some time-worn standards. It’s been a long time since anyone did something different with Until The Real Thing Comes Along, in fact, the last inspiring version was done in ’73 by the late Sandy Denny. The trio goes a step further with Sammy Cahn’s 1937 tune. Sandy Denny’s version made the listener smile from ear to ear and so does the rendition on this CD. Another example is the trio’s treatment of the old chestnut ’Deed I Do. They play with tempo and rhythms and virtually make the 1926 song sound new. Frankly, I’d rate this as the best version I’ve heard in my 55 years of record collecting.
Ron Surace is, in several reviews, compared to Bill Evans and Erroll Garner. He’s reminiscent of Garner in the unique use of his left hand. In my humble opinion, he is closer in many ways to the late Vince Guaraldi. Like Guaraldi, the pure joy of performance is always there. Listen to Surace’s own composition Image. It illustrates my point perfectly. The trio is happy, comfortable and play very intelligent jazz.
This album gets top marks for originality. It’s very easy to like!