First, you call your album Night Grooves, which--face it--carries hefty cheese potential. Not bad in and of itself, but the danger abides. Then you decide to write most of the songs yourself. And this is jazz we're dealing with a genre relentlessly (to its own detriment) enamored of standards. But why not throw in a few covers, too? And why not choose a Thelonius Monk tune, only one of the most iconic jazz pieces? And a compositIon by the late bass legend Leroy Vinnegar, possibly the most revered Portland jazzman ever?
Finally, the bar high enough at last, you decide to record the damn thing almost-live, after just one rehearsal.
Somehow Stan Bock pulls it off. The second album by the trombonist who spend 19 years blowing his horn for the U.S. Air Force, Night Grooves harnesses some of Portland's hottest jazz players to a chassis of suave nightclub funk. It's an album you can imagine cranking, or turning down to a simmer when it's time to dim the lights, put the Riunite on ice and unfurl the satin sheets.
Bock's incredible collaborative octet includes Thara Memory, keyboard demon George Mitchell and the incomparable drummer Mel Brown. Portlanders are lucky enough to have these guys working clubs like Jimmy Mak's on a near-nightly basis, and the players' mutual familiarity breeds smoothness and subtlety.
Bock says touchstones included groups like Art Blakey's legendary Jazz Messengers, from the days before jazz splintered into opposing camps of academic abstractionists and lobotomized lite noodlers. On original compositions like the racy, Jet-set "Night Flight from Nairobi" and kicked-back "Groovin' with J.R.", Bock captures a seamless blend of
cultured sophistication and unashamed funk.
That equilibrium seems tailor-made to Bock's post-military employment: Willamette University jazz prof by day, trombone gun-for-hire by night.
"In teaching, I get to think about the music all day," he says. "By evening I'm just ready to play, and once the downbeat hits, everything else is forgotten."