By: Sam Kayuha, In The Record Store staff writer.
“For lack of a better word” is a phrase that should be thrown around a lot more when discussing musical genres.
Rock, rap and electronic all bring to mind a specific style, yet each branches out into different worlds. Jazz, on the other hand, has been the one word to describe a myriad of styles since it was first used in reference to music a century ago.
“I think some famous critic needs to invent a term for the new stuff coming out,” said Alex Schrock, guitarist and bandleader for local group the Alex Schrock Trio. “No one talks about it as its own thing.”
Musicians making what most people think of as jazz encompass a wide range of styles, and Schrock sees many differences between the kind of music he makes with the trio and the stuff thatcame out of clubs in the early 20th century.
“We have none of that traditional swing,” Schrock said, referring to repeated motifs of artists like George Gershwin and Dizzy Gillespie. “We’re outside of certain, derivative forms."
The trio came together about four years ago, after Schrock completed two music composition degrees; a bachelor’s from University of Akron and a master’s from Cleveland State. Schrock’s formal musical education may seem to contradict the improvisational nature of jazz, but he remains grateful for it.
“Everything I’ve learned benefits me in some way, especially because I teach (guitar lessons),” Schrock said. “But being a student is not the same as being a musician. You’re able to walk through everything. Working as a musician brings you a different kind of experience.”
Schrock and the trio are currently emerging from a winter of writing and rehearsing, preparing for spring and summer when playing live becomes the focus. The group averages about a show a week, usually at places that cater to a jazz crowd such as Rambling House and Dick’s Den.
“You need to see the improvisation live to get a sense of the creativity involved,” Schrock said. “It’s great to see it unfolding in real time.”
The Columbus jazz scene may not be on the level of New York or Chicago, but only if one values quantity over quality. The scene in town is “niche, but not insulated,” according to Schrock, and is held together by the musicians, venues and fans who remain devoted.
The trio put out its second release in September, a six-song collection called “Punk Jazz.” While Schrock is a fan of punk, and is influenced by metal as well as jazz, he said the name came from bassist Chad Greenwald’s description of Schrock’s style.
Schrock liked the phrase enough to use it as a name, but says that the album is more “punk bop” to him, with a bit of distortion added. The trio is coming up on big things this spring, continuing to write and prepare to shoot a video.
“I’m writing heavily and exploring new sounds,” Schrock said. Perhaps is he moves farther into those new sounds he will escape the jazz signifier that seems permanently attached to him.
“Jazz seems kind of stuck in the mud, even though there are a lot of unique artists,” says Schrock. “I don’t want to say it’s just jazz. It’s a phrase no one’s coined yet.”