Ron Surace – Trio City
(Southport – 2001)
by John Barrett
He’s a classically-trained composer who usually works in larger ensembles – so this time they put him in a jazz trio playing standards. Ron Surace has always loved the trio format, and here he explores it his own way: “Speak Low” is given acres of silence, and Tatsu Aoki states part of the theme with his bass. Surace is lush, but not too flashy; his chords turn a light blue, as Dave Pavkovic drums a little samba. Bell-like notes open “I Fall in Love Too Easily”, which lead to lengthy sidetracks along the contours of the tune. Ron varies the theme a little, then varies that variation … and it gets more complex from there. These excursions are fun, and also warm.
Aoki is active on “Exactly Like You”, saying the punchline at the end of each phrase. The solo goes to Pavkovic, with brushes as his only weapons – quite an atmospheric effort. “Sweet Lorraine” is low-key and lovely; “Star Eyes” starts on a Sam Jones-like riff from Aoki and a somber rendition from Ron. His harmonies are harsh, even jarring at times; the solo is sweet, but the eerie mood prevails. “The Touch of Your Lips” has rhythmic chords surrounded by empty space (good idea, but it sounds a bit hesitant) and “Chelsea Bridge” is the sound of a foggy night: cloudy chords, heavy sustain, and short bluesy jabs. With a sound between Duke and the boogie men, this “Bridge” is a great place to be.
There’s a whiff of the restless spirit in “Come Rain or Come Shine”. Ron races or crawls as he sees fit – only rarely does he bother with the theme. Tatsu and Dave keep to a steady march, regardless of what Surace is doing; it’s interesting, though not quite essential. “Suddenly” skips along nicely, helped by a forceful left hand; it’s followed by a lush “I Only Have Eyes for You”, which strides slow and leaps fast. “Jazz Ballad” (the lone original) is full of that cocktail mood: a gentle melody, a leisurely piano, and big, big chords. The whole group struts on “Nothing Changes My Love”, with Dave getting in some good brushwork. While the sound of this trio is a little different, it’s a “different” anyone can understand … and enjoy.