Stan Bock’s latest album, Stan Bock & the New Tradition, is full of innovative sounds, yet it’s deeply connected to early jazz — music the trombonist knows well.
KMHD Jazz Radio’s Deborah DeMoss Smith talked with Stan Bock about his jazz experiences and the joy of playing.
Deborah DeMoss Smith: Did playing early jazz add to your jazz ear?
Stan Bock: Oh, heavens, yes. Playing in my dad’s band — he didn’t have a bass player so my trombone functioned as a bass instrument — so when I was playing tailgate I had to get a feel playing for chord progression. Even though I couldn’t have told you what it was, I intuitively knew, and Dad making me do that really helped me tremendously because the chord root movement is something that’s part of me forever and it helped me to hear the chords better. I absorbed the way the bass notes moved so that it became intuitive for me. Later, I learned what to call things as I learned jazz harmony in college.
DDS: You come upon J.J. Johnson, Curtis Fuller, Edward Kid Ory and Frank Rosolino; whom would you choose to sit down and talk to?
SB: Well, it depends on what kind of mood I’m in. If I’m in a serious mood, I want to sit down and talk to J.J. If I’m feeling silly, I want to be next to Frank Rosolino because that guy was like Jeff Usitalo on steroids. He was a party on wheels and so much fun. All the guys that I’ve met that knew him, they all say the same thing.
DDS: What did playing in the U.S. Air Force Band do for you?
SB: It taught me how to be a pro. There were a lot of times I was called on to play in groups I might not have cared for, or play music that I didn’t really care for. But my attitude couldn’t manifest itself in the way that I performed the music, so that was helpful. We got to play with great folks while I was in uniform — played with Jon Faddis twice, played with Dizzy a couple of times, Bobby Shue. We played with a whole catalog of great artists while I was on-duty. But it was off-duty stuff that I absolutely really loved. A lot of guys I’ve played with have served in military bands one time or another. The most-often-heard comment: ‘I wish I had stuck it out because I’d have a pension when I was done.’ Well, I’m telling you that that pension has saved my life since I’ve been out!
DDS: What tune would you play for someone who’s completely unfamiliar with jazz?
SB: The very first song I ever played on the trombone when I was 9 years old was ‘When the Saints Go Marchin’ In.’ I heard it on some of my dad’s records. He was a big Louis Armstrong fan and we had a bunch of those kinds of records, Dukes of Dixieland. ‘The Saints’ was, of course, probably the most-often-played tune by all those bands. When I picked the horn up, Dad didn’t show me any of the slide positions. He was just playing in the living room and laid it down on the couch. I found the notes on the slide. I can hardly believe it as I think back on it. In about 10 minutes I had the tune worked out.
DDS: Other than the trombone, what’s your favorite instrument?
SB: I love playing the euphonium, but when I have the chance I love to play the tuba. When I was in college I had to study all those instruments in the music ed classes because I was thinking originally when I went to college that I was going to be a teacher. I did fall in love with the instrument and did end up playing in the symphonic band. I was playing trombone in the wind ensemble, an elite group, but I was playing tuba in a big symphonic band, one of eight tuba players. It was a ball. Over the years, every once in awhile, I was getting a chance to play the instrument. I don’t own one; they’re way too much money — almost as much as a car would cost!