Herbie Brock: 'Brock's Tops'


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Herbie Brock
Jazz has had its share of brilliant blind pianists. The list includes Art Tatum, Lennie Tristano, George Shearing, Joe Mooney, Ray Charles and Marcus Roberts. Here's another you probably don't know—Herbie Brock. He only recorded six known albums between 1955 and 1965, including Brock's Tops for Savoy in February 1956.

Brock attended the State School for the Blind in Batavia, N.Y., where he heard Art Tatum on the radio int he 1930s and majored in piano and organ while also learning to play the tenor sax. After school, he gigged around Rochester, particularly at Otmens on Front St., and tried to tour with his brother-in-law, known locally as Buddy Satan, as part of a two-piano team. Brock moved to Coral Gables, Fla., in 1952, married, had two children and worked steadily in Miami. His first album, Solo, was recorded at Miami's Onyx Club in 1955. His second album was Brock's Tops, with Brooks Caperton on bass and Rick Hanson on drums.

Brock was a swinging Bud Powell-influenced player with clock-like time and densely packed chord changes. The last news clips I could find on Brock was in a 1965 Down Beat, when he was mentioned for playing at Miami's Basin Street South, alternating nights with trumpeter Ira Sullivan. I also found an ad in November 1955 for the Auditorium on Miami's Flagler St. announced that Brock was an added attraction to Preacher and the Five Saints. From there, the trail goes cold.

Here's Herbie Brock's discography...
  • Solo (Savoy/1955)
  • Brock's Top (Savoy/1956)
  • Herbie's Room (Criteria/1957)
  • The Night and Herbie Brock at the 700 Club (Art/1961)
  • Featuring Laurie Lee (Brock/1963)
  • Blue Miami (ABCJ/1965)
JazzWax tracks: Herbie Brock's Brock's Tops is out of print but available on CD from independent sellers from time to time at Amazon and eBay.

JazzWax clip: Here's Brock playing Four Brothers...

And here's Brock playing There Will Never Be Another You...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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