Tim Stanley is one of those musicians whose technical prowess makes your jaw drop. Then you realize that his vocabulary is strongly rooted in the jazz trumpet tradition and his playing becomes all the more impressive. In addition, to those who know Tim personally, his quick wit is an integral part of his improvisations. It’s hard to get anything past this guy!
I’ve known Tim for going on three years now, but I learned a lot about him in preparing for this blog post! I had a great phone interview with him where we really got into his musical tastes and influences. That conversation is shared below.
JB: Who was your earliest musical influence?
TS: It would definitely be my dad. He kept himself (and still keeps himself) busy playing with all sorts of musicians in St. Louis. German bands, dixieland bands, community bands, a little wind ensemble at my church. He had me playing all the time, and not just reading stuff, but he started putting me on gigs. He would tell me, “just follow along, you’ll hear it.”
I eventually started studying with a local trumpet player named Russ Rigden. He had played with Spike Jones’ band, and various NBC orchestras, but by the time I began studying with him, he was a retired band director in the St. Louis area. He would have me learn standard tunes and point me in the direction of some recordings. He wouldn’t give me sheet music but would instead have me listen and try to learn it on my own. Most of the time in our lessons we learned from the typical trumpet technique books (Arban, Clarke, etc.).
TS: That is hard because I feel like it has gone in so many different directions, and it has changed a lot even in the last ten years. I have felt the most impact from players like Chet Baker, Tom Harrell, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Lee Morgan, and Clifford [Brown]. I feel like I latched on to Clifford later. When I was in my 20s I really wanted to play like Tom Harrell and Woody Shaw (modern) but I also tried to play very tastefully, emphasizing melodies.
When I really started getting into Clifford I realized how much vocabulary was untapped, how much I had not hit on when I was younger. I started wondering how I was able to play and function with other guys without this vocabulary.
JB: I think a lot of people would say that they can hear the Clifford Brown influence coming through; however, you definitely have your own unique style. How did you go about developing your own voice on the instrument?
If I am thinking about anything while I’m improvising, it’s to try to not have a preconceived bag
TS: I’ve been big about trying to keep an open mind about what to listen to. I’ve always tried to find good things about everything and not dismiss music for being lame or “not my thing.” I feel like I’ve been deeply affected by a lot of rock ‘n’ roll, a lot of psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll especially. I don’t know how it influences my playing but it definitely does. If I am thinking about anything while I’m improvising, it’s to try to not have a preconceived bag, be in the moment, and to listen to everyone else [rhythm section]. I like to play things that are accessible but also smart, quirky, and all kinds of emotions. When I hear guitar players like Duane Allman, that’s what stands out to me. The stuff he’s playing is hip, interesting, rhythmically it’s always surprising. Yet he’s always got one foot in the tradition.
JB: You have pretty varied musical interests and you even sing and play guitar. When did you start singing?
TS: I heard Frank [Sinatra] and Chet Baker and started singing along with them when I was in high school. I would sing along with them, just trying to copy their inflections. Once I got to the [Navy] band in Newport, [RI], we had a recital series which was the first time I really did it in front of an audience.
JB: Who are your favorite musicians outside of jazz?
TS: Outside of jazz, the Allman Brothers (I’ve seen them in concert more times than I can count) or Steely Dan even though they’re heavily jazz influenced. Hank Williams, Sr., George Jones, outlaw country guys. Wilco, the Jayhawks, Avett Brothers, Americana kind of stuff. I’m also kind of a sucker for Queen and other 70s and 80s bands.
JB: Would you say that’s because you grew up with that kind of music?
TS: Definitely. Queen, Zeppelin, Van Halen. A lot of guys think Van Halen is just a hair band, but they are bad dudes.
JB: Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
TS: Talent can only get you so far (I was just telling my son this the other day). Just like anything else, you have to work at it. There has to be a lot of regular, committed practice. You actually have to like this and it has to give you joy. If you’re trying to be a jazz musician, and you’re in high school, someone says, “You have to listen to as much jazz as possible,” and you listen to five minutes of jazz and then turn it off because it’s not your thing, maybe it’s not your thing. Although sometimes you just have to give the music a chance and try to find something positive about it.
Hometown: Belleville, Illinois
Instruments: Trumpet, Voice, Guitar
Education: Attended Eastern Illinois University, studied with W. Parker Melvin
Experience: Navy Commodores, Naval Academy Band, Navy Band Northeast, Afro-bop Alliance, Unified Jazz Ensemble, Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra, Stan Fornaszewski Big Band (St. Louis)
Favorite Gig: When the Commodores played with Chris Potter
Time on the DC music scene: 14 years
Hobbies/Spare Time: Cooking (and as an extension, vegetable gardening), American History (World War II documentaries, Revolutionary War), parenting two sons
Where to hear him: Tim plays a weekly Tuesday night gig with the Unified Jazz Ensemble at 49 West in Annapolis, MD.