The typical jazz drummer is a hip but restrained figure, seated behind a trap set keeping the beat. He and the bass player are the core rhythm section; their job is to remain out of the spotlight, providing a solid but unobtrusive backing for the band, the pianist, or whoever is frontlining.
Tim Froncek—who brings the first of three evenings of jazz to The Block at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 18—never got that memo.
The ebullient drummer is a larger-than-life, outgoing, dynamic stage presence—in the tradition of a Buddy Rich or an Ed Shaughnessy—who doesn’t take a back seat to anyone. He is a whole show by himself. At the same time, he is a skilled session player who never calls undue attention to himself. He exudes the joy and pleasure of what he is doing. He lives and breathes jazz, and he is one of the best drummers around. He’s also one of the most in-demand.
Froncek is omnipresent throughout the Midwest as a performer, director of big bands, clinician, jurist and teacher. He knows practically everyone in the national jazz scene as well, and has toured internationally with the Western Jazz Quartet and performed with the likes of Woody Herman, Pearl Bailey, Brother Jack McDuff, Clark Terry and countless other household names. He is an affiliate professor at Grand Valley State University, where he directs the Jazz Orchestra, teaches private students, and lectures on the history of jazz. He also directs the jazz program at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Currently musical director with two of the area’s premier big bands, Froncek can be heard with the Muskegon-based Truth In Jazz Orchestra (TIJO) and the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra (GRJO). In 2004 the West Michigan Jazz Society voted Tim “Jazz Musician of the Year.”
Froncek is teaming up with musician friends from around the country to provide a series of Wednesday evening jam sessions at The Block in downtown Muskegon this summer. Starting at 7:30 p.m., events are scheduled for July 18, August 1 and August 15. “These will be less like formal performances and more like intimate musical sharings,” said The Block’s Executive Director, Andy Buelow. “I think of Oscar Peterson’s live sessions in the private studio of Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer in southern Germany back in ’68, which resulted in the famous album The Way I Really Play. This is the kind of authenticity that The Block lends itself to. These will be marvelous evenings of exquisite, joyful music featuring the area’s finest players… the way they really play!”
General admission tickets, at $10, are available by calling 231.726.3231 or at TheBlockWestMichigan.org. The Block is located at 360 W. Western Ave. in Muskegon.