The Stan Bock Ensemble: Night Grooves (2003)
Trombonist Stan Bock grew up with the music of horn bands like Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chicago, and the Motown groups. Although exposed early to classic jazz, swing, and the big bands by his music teacher father, he gravitated away from his early heroes (Tommy Dorsey and Urbie Green) and towards Wayne Henderson (Jazz Crusaders), Fred Wesley (James Brown), and James Pankow (Chicago). In those years, it was R&B and soul music that truly caught his fancy.
Bock went on to get Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music, and, after a 19-year career in the Air Force Band program, he settled into a teaching position at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. But the embers of those early loves have continued to smolder over the years, and on this project he has fanned them back into white-hot flame.
Groove is what this CD is all about, from blues to Latin to funk and R&B. Bock has brought together a group of talented jazz, R&B, and soul players from the Pacific Northwest for a high-octane performance of twelve diverse selections. That they did not end up sounding like a camel looks is a tribute to their musicianship and to Bock’s arranging and leadership. In addition, each tune provides a suitable frame in which to showcase his talent as a soloist. Bock’s sound is full and emotive, with little vibrato and more than a hint of burr on occasion; he is facile throughout the instrument’s range.
The opening original pursues a tasty Afro-Cuban groove, with noteworthy ‘bone, alto, and piano solos. The album’s only true jazz standard, Van Heusen’s “I Thought About You,” is intriguingly re- harmonized and taken as a slow, wistful ballad; solos by Bock, Mitchell, and Captien linger in my memory. Leroy Vinnegar’s “Ah Que Linda” nicely demonstrates a West Coast bossa nova beat. These first three tunes are my favorites of the disc.
Mitchell switches to Hammond B3 for “Mrs. Bea,” another original with a funky, New Orleans flavor as pungent as gumbo. “Stanadelic” and “Reflections,” by Dan Brewster, formerly with the band Pleasure, continue in a ‘70s funk groove.
Bock’s arrangement of Thad Jones’ “Sho ‘Nuff Did” impressively spotlights this angular, off-kilter blues; Captien’s bass solo gets things off to a grand start, and Memory makes the most of his trumpet solo. Two more originals, “Gabby’s Getaway” and “Unauthorized Funk,” pay tribute to the Caribbean and James Brown, respectively, the latter with Hammond B3 and electric bass locked in a passionate duel. “Escapee,” which has a “Watermelon Man” feel to it; “Straight, No Chaser,” a creatively arranged doff of the beret to Thelonious Monk; and a Hammond B3 Detroit shuffle entitled “Groovin’ with J.R.” (in memory of Jerome Richards, composer for the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Band) bring us to the conclusion of this interesting mélange.
Track Listing: Night Flight from Nairobi; I Thought About You; Ah Que Linda; Ms. Bea Goes to Tea; Stanadelic; Reflections; Sho
Personnel: Stan Bock (trombone, euphonium), Thara Memory (trumpet), Warren Rand (alto sax), Renato Caranto (tenor sax), JatTik Clark (tuba), George Mitchell (piano & organ), Dave Captien (bass & electric bass), Mel Brown (drums), and Caton Lyles (congas)