Surprise Chef: Education & Recreation [Album Review]

Surprise Chef
Education & Recreation
Big Crown Records [2022]

In the music critic business, you would be surprised sometimes on how promoters create large reaching descriptors for artists just to grab a publication’s attention. Many times, they are not even close but sometimes just asking the band is the best source as Melbourne’s Surprise Chef describes their music as “moody shades of instrumental jazz-funk.” That niche genre is spot on as the group’s third LP, Education & Recreation, is a fresh exploratory instrumental blend of soul, funk and jazz that maximizes their excellent musicianship and impeccable timing.

The right amount of keys and space is what really sets the bar high for Surprise Chef. They never sound rushed and that is a good thing as on the opening track, “Bakery Pledge Of Allegiance,” a 70’s bass riff gets things going while the guitar quickly joins with a memorable chord run before the isolated keys take center stage. It is a track that is an instant “swayer” when you hear it and it sets the tone for the rest of Education & Recreation. The group consistently presents you with a true soundtrack of swagger as each song dives deep into its grooves that also features vibraphone, flute and multiple percussion borders. “Iconoclasts” is another highlight on the album as it lets you sit with your thoughts with its slow burning progression and building percussion that haunts its backdrop. The space that is built in-between the notes here are noticeable and allows the listener to absorb the entire piece.

Surprise Chef work very well together as one musical unit and Education & Recreation is definitely stronger for it. The record also does not always dwell in the retro like how “Suburban Breeze” has a Strangers Thing type beginning while the upbeat “Winter’s Theme” is a treat as it kicks off with some rapid-fire drums, contains a clinking bottle like percussion and mixes it all with a thoughtful blend of keys and guitar. Overall, these type of timeless instrumental combinations from Suprise Chef gives Education & Recreation a high replay value. This Melbourne act is most certainly under the radar for most, but they have created a great record for any time of the day as it becomes increasingly hard to remove from your playlist. Education & Recreation really is the groove you will want to hear all day!

“Bakery Pledge Of Allegiance” / “Velodrome” / “Winter’s Theme”

The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble / Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio / El Michels Affair

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Christopher Anthony
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