One of the pivitol moments of my life came in 9th grade when the high school jazz band teacher asked me to join the jazz band. I was the only high school string bass player in the entire school district. He didn’t have many options, so he took a chance on me.
I fell in love jazz. It was fun to play, and as I learned and improved I started to enjoy listening to it as well.
There weren’t many radio stations in Kansas City that played jazz back then. (Even today there aren’t.) This was long before streaming music or internet radio. The best chance l had to listen to jazz was by borrowing cassette tapes and CDs or staying up late to listen to the overnight jazz programs on the radio. Jazz with Bob Parlocha was my favorite, from 1 AM to 6 AM.
I had a clock radio that I world listen to under the covers, hoping I wouldn’t wake up family members. My parents must have thought I was insane. As often as I could I would set my alarm for 1 AM and tune in as Bob spun records and told stories. It was an amazing musical education.
I’ll never forget the time he played two songs in a row from the Chick Corea album “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs.” It was incredible. String bass as an equal partner in a piano trio! Listening to Charles Mingus’ big band was another eye opening experience. String bass as the leader of a whole band! More than anyone else, Bob taught me to love both the music and the culture of jazz.
Today it seems like you can listen to anything, anytime. I wonder if I would have come to love jazz quite so much if I didn’t have to struggle to find and listen to it. The struggle made it much more precious to me.
Bob Parlocha passed away in 2015 at 77. His daughter Tawna keeps a website where you can listen to the Jazz with Bob Parlocha archives.
My favorite current program that I listen to whenever I have a chance is Jazz in the Night with Bob McWilliams.