From the album 'CONSUMMATION' (Solid State Records). Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra - It Only Happens Every Time (1970)
Personnel: Thad Jones (flugelhorn, arrange), Snooky Young, Danny Moore, Al Porcino, Marvin Stamm (trumpet), Eddie Bert, Benny Powell, Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Cliff Heather (bass trombone), Jerome Richardson (soprano sax, alto sax, flute, alto flute), Jerry Dodgion (alto sax, clarinet, flute, alto flute), Billy Harper (tenor sax, flute), Eddie Daniels (tenor sax, clarinet, flute), Richie Kamuca (clarinet, baritone sax), Roland Hanna (piano), Richard Davis (bass), Mel Lewis (drums).
Jones left the Basie Orchestra in 1963 to become a freelance arranger and studio player in New York. In 1965 he and drummer Mel Lewis formed The Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra. The group initially began with informal late-night jam sessions among New York's top studio musicians. The group eventually began performing at the Village Vanguard in February, 1966, to wide acclaim, and continued with Jones in the lead for twelve years. They won a 1978 Grammy Award for their album Live in Munich. Jones also taught at William Paterson College in New Jersey, which is now the site of the Thad Jones Archive, containing pencil scores and vintage photos as part of the Living Jazz Archives.
Jones' big-band arranging style was unique, especially from the standpoint of featuring dissonant voicings in a tonal context. This required the members of his big band to play correctly in tune, otherwise the dense chords he wrote would not sound correct. Minor 2nds and major 7ths are often featured in his voicings, especially when the entire band plays a long, powerful chord that some would describe as having "bite".
One of the more notable albums he made in this regard is Suite for Pops recorded on the A&M Records Horizon label (now out of print) in the early 1970s. It also featured the intense bebop improvisations of saxophonist Billy Harper and the high note screech playing of lead trumpet player Jon Faddis.
The orchestra was arguably the most influential Big Band since the swing era. It was also an unusual band; creating new styles, succeeding in an era where big bands were out of favor, and remaining integrated during racially tense periods. The band initially was made of all-stars, but over time endeavored to showcase new talent (Jon Faddis). Jones' arrangements proved to be highly influential upon modern composers such as Maria Schneider, Bob Brookmeyer (who is also an alumnus), Jim McNeely, and Bill Kirchner. His songs built upon the innovations previously pioneered by Jazz composition figures such as Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus. Since the mid-1980s, the band has been renamed the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, continuing its tradition as the Village Vanguard's house band.
Born Thaddeus Joseph Jones, March 28, 1923, in Pontiac, MI; died of cancer on August, 21, 1986, in Copenhagen, Denmark; son of Baptist deacon.
Performed in Arcadia Club Band at age sixteen; 1941 performed in Connie Connell’s band; served in U.S. Army 1943-1946; worked with the band of Charles Young (circ. 1946-1948); led own quintet in Detroit; worked in the bands of Candy Johnson and Jimmy Taylor; performed at Blue Bird Inn, Detroit 1952-1954; joined the Count Basie Band in 1954 and performed with Charles Mingus’ Jazz Workshop; left the Basie Band and in 1963 worked briefly as a CBS staff arranger; co-led Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra 1965-1978; led the Danish Radio Orchestra and taught at the Royal Conservatory; 1980 taught Jazz Seminar in Barcelona, Spain; rejoined the Basie Band in 1985;
Although he was generally reluctant to solo, Mel Lewis was considered one of the definitive big band drummers, a musician who was best at driving an orchestra, but could also play quite well with smaller units. He started playing professionally when he was 15 and worked with the big bands of Boyd Raeburn (1948), Alvino Rey, Ray Anthony, and Tex Beneke. Lewis gained a great deal of recognition in the jazz world for his work with Stan Kenton (1954-1957), making the large ensemble swing hard. In 1957, he settled in Los Angeles, became a studio drummer, and worked with the big bands of Terry Gibbs and Gerald Wilson. Lewis went to New York to play with Gerry Mulligan's Concert Jazz Band in 1960, and he toured Europe with Dizzy Gillespie (1961) and the Soviet Union with Benny Goodman (1962). In 1965, Lewis formed an orchestra in New York with Thad Jones which grew to be one of the top big bands in jazz. When Jones surprised everyone by suddenly fleeing to Europe in 1979, Lewis became the orchestra's sole leader, playing regularly each Monday night at the Village Vanguard until his death. Lewis recorded as a leader in the 1950s for San Francisco Jazz Records, Mode (reissued on V.S.O.P.), and Andex and, after Thad Jones left their orchestra, Lewis recorded with his big band for Atlantic, Telarc, and Music Masters.