By Tony Gieske
Ron Stout gave up his usual seat in a big band trumpet section to lead a little combo Saturday night at Vibrato, where his affably poetic improvisation during a program of choice ballads was a privilege to hear.
All big band devotees probably know Stout by sight, with his can’t-miss-him beard, plus his brawny brassman’s body and his brassman’s brawny sound.
It’s a musicianly and authoritative sound that leads or underpins the brasses in groups led by such familiar jazzmen and women as Bill Holman, Buddy Childers, Jack Sheldon, Bob Florence, Phil Norman, Maynard Ferguson, Maria Schneider, Bill Berry, Clayton-Hamilton, Capp-Pierce, Woody Herman, Les Brown and some say J.P. Sousa.
Of course, these leaders give him a few measures of solo space from time to time. But the way he plays when he has the whole room to himself is a totally ’nother story.
He got me with the very first tune, “Someday You’ll Be Sorry,” a wistful, grandmotherly number by Louis Armstrong that’s as pretty as a dusty antique hair-ribbon.
Stout, the veteran of a thousand echoing ballrooms, puts the sound right on your shoulder, neither too loud nor too soft, confiding his impromptu harmonic anecdotes without a hint of hyperbole. The blithe and deadpan way he followed the path suggested by the harmony was a delight. It did not require any whipped cream or toasted almonds.
Stout’s three-person rhythm section — Theo Saunders, piano, Pat Senatore, bass, and Tina Raymond, drums — knew exactly how to support the leader. All they had to do, really, was to imagine what Sweets Edison would want.
And that’s what they did. They helped draw delicate flavors from three or four more moderately touching ballads, and got things swinging with a couple of uncomplicated jump tunes, one from a Basie perspective and another from Ellington’s.
Senatore, the same guy who runs the joint, found himself with plenty of solo space, which he filled with wit and jollity. Did Stout woo him with some extra spotlight time? Nah. Pianist Saunders and drummer Raymond got pretty much the same ration. They, too, rationed out admirably adept musings.
Photos by Tony Gieske. Read and see more of Tony’s jazz essays and photos at his personal web site tonyspage.com.