Portland, Oregon trombone player extraordinaire, Stan Bock, has had a largely low key jazz career. He entered the U.S. Air Force band program in the mid-70s, where he served as a trombone soloist with various groups for nearly 19 years before retiring in 1994. He then settled in the Portland area and has been an active freelance sideman as well as a music teacher ever since in the Pacific Northwest. His two prior CDs are from 1999 (Of Fathers and Sons) and his 2003 release, Night Grooves, was also released on OA2 Records.
Bock's latest OA2 release, Your Check's in the Mail, is in this reviewer's opinion, the best of the lot. It features a crackerjack collection of the finest Portland jazzmen, including his band mates from the Mel Brown Sextet, altoist Warren Rand, and tenor saxist, Renato Caranto. The hard bop contingent is filled out with trumpeter, Paul Mazzio, classically-trained tuba man, JatTik Clark, keyboard virtuoso, George Mitchell, and bassist Dave Captein. Bock has been a fixture with Mel Brown in a weekly gig at Portland's premiere jazz club, Jimmy Maks, for 10+ years. There the sextet is met with a jammed house eager to soak up their hour long sets with immediate segues and no breaks.
The track selection here is similar to a night at Jimmy Maks: a mixture of classic tunes done in a hard bop swinging fashion along with original compositions done to show off the band's chops. The title track even includes Bock's inimitable scat singing, recorded here for the first time. Having George Mitchell on B-3 organ ups the grease quotient. Speaking of grease and funk, this CD closes with an impromptu version of The Godfather, a band tribute to the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, who passed away on Christmas, 2006. Between that track and the CD opener, Thad Jones' Ain't Nothin' New, you can find a heady mix of tight arrangements of classics like Night in Tunisia, I'll Remember April, and On Green Dolphin Street, coupled with the funky Bouncin' the Baby, and steady swing of Crystal's Waltz.
Special mention must be made of local drummer legend, Mel Brown's incredible brushwork and time-keeping. Frontline members Warren Rand, Renato Caranto, and Paul Mazzio also deserve accolades. Bock's prowess on trombone and euphonium seals the deal. This band, made up of local legends in Portland, could hold their own in any jazz club in the country. You can save the airfare to Portland by purchasing this hip CD of the Stan Bock Ensemble. However, if you are ever within 100 miles of the Rose City on a Tuesday night, point your wheels toward Northwest Portland and Jimmy Maks for the real deal.