Next in our new series of interviews with some of Central Ohio’s finest jazz musicians is guitarist Alex Schrock. A Canton, Ohio native, Schrock has become very active as a bandleader, a solo performer, and an in-demand guitarist in the local jazz, soul, and hip-hop scenes. His main artistic focus currently is the Alex Schrock Trio – October is an exciting time for the band, with an ongoing crowd-funding campaign to support the recording of its first studio album and two big upcoming performances (see below for more details). Schrock is also the leader of Gradient Prophet, an electronic/hip-hop instrumental project with plenty of jazz influences. Keep reading for insights from Schrock on his musical roots and current projects:
When and why did you start playing music and jazz?
Alex Schrock (AS): I started playing bass when I was twelve years old, mostly because my older brother got a guitar around the same time. I switched over to guitar while in high school but was mostly playing rock and metal. I started listening to Mahavishnu Orchestra, John Coltrane, Pat Metheny but really had no idea what was going on and there weren’t really a lot places for me to learn in Canton, Ohio. I faked my way into the music program at the University of Akron and there I became immersed in it. I’m still thankful for all the great experiences I had there; I didn’t really begin to understand how great the teachers were until awhile after I left.
Who are some of your main influences in your playing/performing?
AS: As far as improvising and playing the guitar, I can easily say my main influences are Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, Jonathan Kreisberg and Wes Montgomery. Compositionally, probably a bit everything I’ve ever studied, which ranges from Afro-Cuban music, Brazilian jazz, the entire gamut of famous “classical” composers and progressive/technical metal.
What is your fondest musical memory?
AS: Oh man, that’s a tough question to answer. I think the times where I’ve been performing and something happened musically that I could never in a million years foresee happens effortlessly and perfectly. Those are the moments that really drive me to keep playing jazz and keep playing with my trio; they really are life changing in a way.
What are you listening to today? What’s on your playlist?
AS: I recently discovered John Coltrane’s Afro Blue Impressions – it’s an album of two live performances in Stockholm and Berlin in 1963 that were released posthumously in 1977. I’m glad someone had the sense to release this album, even if it had to wait fourteen years! When I first found it I was listening to “Naima” (Stockholm) on repeat, probably my favorite Coltrane cut ever (the one recorded in Berlin is amazing too).
I’ve also been listening to Knxwledge a lot, most people would probably know him as a producer on Kendrick Lamar’s latest album To Pimp A Butterfly. I listen to a lot of hip-hop with a similar sensibility for flipping old soul and jazz records; Dilla, MF DOOM, Ackryte, Bugseed, etc.
What inspires you about the Columbus Jazz scene?
AS: Its accessibility; most of the venues are cheap (in drinks and cover) and still have the best musicians in town play there. Spontaneous outings to go see music are pretty easy here (the JazzColumbus website helps with that!).
What are you working on for 2015? Any new projects, exciting shows or releases?
AS: Yes, yes and yes. As far as projects, I’m in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to finish my first studio album with my trio, Limitless Meaning. I had already began recording on my own but being able to finish it up with my own money in any reasonable amount of time wasn’t going to happen. The Kickstarter will allow friends and fans to be a part of the creation process by backing it and getting rewards; ranging from simply a copy of the album to lessons, private shows, and even time in the studio with us. It will also help local musicians and artists (not just me!) and help keep our music scene thriving. You can read more about it here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1864250140/limitless-meaning-alex-schrock-trios-first-studio
Where can local audiences see you play in the near future?
AS: I have two trio shows in October that I’m very excited about. My trio will be at Brothers Drake on Wednesday, October 7th, 8pm – 11pm. I will be having two great musicians coming from out of town: Dan Pappalardo (bass) and Zaire Darden (drums). This will be a fresh take on my trio.
I will also be at Dick’s Den on October 18th, which will be a little bit of an earlier show because it’s on a Sunday (7pm – 11pm). Hopefully my musician friends who are always playing will have a chance to come out. It’s also my birthday show! Featuring Chad Greenwald (bass) and Ryan Jewell (drums), who are the main guys for my trio.
For more info, visit www.AlexSchrock.com.