His last bandstand bash?

Jazz, jokes and a jovial spirit are just some of the elements that have made trumpeter Stanley Ross and his band The Stompers a local treasure. But Ross, 79, is about to bid his farewell.

December 8, 2010 22:14
4 minute read.
Stanley Ross.

Stanley Ross 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

If you’re in the neighborhood of Netanya this Saturday night, be prepared to have a smile on your face – especially if you go along to the Young Israel of North Netanya synagogue on Shlomo Hamelekh Street at 8:30 p.m. “Prompt,” adds Stanley Ross unequivocally.

Visitors to the synagogue hall will have absolutely no problem identifying Ross, who turns 80 this month. He will be the rosy-cheeked gent with the trumpet between his lips fronting an eight-piece jazz band.

Born in Glasgow and made aliya for a second time in 1982, Ross has been blowing his way through a jolly repertoire of early jazz numbers for half a century. The self-taught Ross says he was drawn to the early jazz efforts of pioneers such as Jelly Roll Morton, Kid Ory and Louis Armstrong because of their sound but, far more importantly, the joie de vivre they exuded.

“If my shows are any different from anybody else’s, it is possibly because I tend to use them not so much as jazz shows but as a form of entertainment,” says Ross. “I like to entertain people, and that includes telling jokes. Some of the jokes are a bit corny, and I tell a few shaggy dog stories. Actually, I’ve never understood why they are called that – there aren’t any dogs in them. But people have a good laugh. It also gives the boys in the band a chance to rest,” says the great-grandfather of seven.

While totally entranced by New Orleans jazz, Ross has not been tempted to turn fully professional. “The commercial side of the entertainment business has never really appealed to me, first and foremost because I am a family man.” Then again, it may be a familial connection that drew Ross to music in the first place. “My father-in-law was in the British army and arrived in Palestine in 1917, together with [British General] Allenby. He was a bugler – maybe that’s what made me interested in playing music. I don’t know.”

Having fallen in love with the sound of the trumpet as a young man, Ross listened to the records of the early jazz players and caught as many visiting acts as he could, including Louis Armstrong and Count Basie. He also went to hear, and befriended, various members of the Scottish and English jazz elite, such as fellow Scot, trumpeter Alex Welsh.

“Alex once offered to sell me his trumpet for 20 pounds,” Ross recalls. “I didn’t buy it because it seemed like a lot of money at the time.”

ROSS WORKED for a while as a regional manager for a large company, which allowed him to catch jazz gigs by better and lesser-known musicians up and down Britain. Naturally, when he made aliya in 1982 – his first attempt to settle here in the mid-1960s failed – he sought out like-minded music lovers in Israel. It was a chance meeting in unlikely circumstances that led to an enduring and fruitful musical liaison.

“I met [trombonist] Amnon Ben-Artzi on the film set of Sahara [starring Brooke Shields and John Mills] near Jericho in January 1983. We immediately struck up a friendship and realized we shared a love for the same music,” Ross recounts. “That’s how [Ross’s band] The Sharon Valley Stompers – now just The Stompers – came into being.” The friendship is still alive and kicking, and Ben-Artzi will be on the bandstand with Ross on Saturday night.

Over the last almost three decades, The Stompers have entertained audiences all over Israel at all manner of venue and have performed – in absentia – for the queen of England.

“There was an event to mark her 80th birthday at the British ambassador’s house in Tel Aviv, and we were asked to play there. I received a letter of thanks from Her Majesty,” says Ross proudly. The letter is framed and hangs on a wall in Ross’s Netanya home.

The trumpeter has also helped to bring musical acts to Netanya, encouraged by Mayor Miriam Feierberg. “Miriam was at my 70th birthday celebratory concert, and I hope she’ll be there on Saturday night, too. I know she’s very busy and she has done good things for this city. She has always supported my efforts.”

If Feierberg does make it to the gig, it will probably be her last chance to see Ross in action.

“I think this is my farewell performance,” says Ross. “I had a triple bypass operation a few months ago, and I don’t really have the strength to play the trumpet the way I used to. It’s a very demanding instrument.”

Last bandstand bash or no, Young Israel of North Netanya will be a fun place to be on Saturday evening. “The invitation to the show says there’ll be music and a le’chaim,” says the soon-tobe octogenarian. “I think we’ll all have a good time.”

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