The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra

The Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra was an American big band led by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, which existed from 1965 to 1978. It applies after Ted Gioia as one of the most famous and the most brilliant big bands of their time. Joachim Ernst Berendt, according to them was in the 1970s " the most musically compelling Orchestra under all the recent big bands. "

Band History

The Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra was first founded in 1965 by studio musicians as sample band. His debut had the big band on February 7, 1966 at the New York jazz club the Village Vanguard. With this concert began over forty year tradition of Monday's performances by the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, from 1978, the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra and, finally, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra emerged after Thad Jones ' resignation. Thad Jones and Bob Brookmeyer ( who played in the orchestra valve trombone) were responsible for most of the arrangements, the Thad Jones ' own compositions Mean What You Say and Do not Ever Leave Me -known jazz standards such as Polka Dots and Moonbeams, Lover Man and Willow Weep for Me arranged. In the band were in the founding members Thad's brother Hank Jones, Jerome Richardson, Pepper Adams, Snooky Young, Jerry Dodgion and Eddie Daniels, the soloists. According to Dee Dee Bridgewater, who sang four years in the orchestra, was especially Thad Jones for " the creative aspect " responsible, while co-leader Mel Lewis was responsible for the business side. As arrangers also acted the musicians involved Garnett Brown and Tom McIntosh.

In 1966 the big band at the Newport Jazz Festival. In the second half of the 1960s was followed by a series of recordings for the label Solid State Records, in which the Gastvokalisten Joe Williams and Ruth Brown participated. Early in 1970, played in the produced by Sonny Lester Album Consummation, Richard Cook / Brian Morton states that " one of the best big band albums of its time ", including Richard Davis, Jimmy Buffington, Julius Watkins, Roland Hanna, Joe Farrell, Richie Kamuca, Billy Harper, Benny Powell, Eddie Bert, Jimmy Knepper, Al Porcino, Marvin trunk and Howard Johnson in the orchestra.

Beginning of the 1970s the orchestra undertook numerous national and international tours, in Europe every year, several times in Japan and 1972 in the Soviet Union. In 1976, a live album with the organist Rhoda Scott; In 1977, the singer Monica Zetterlund with recordings. In one of the last occupations 1978, musicians such as Steve Coleman, Charles Davis, Jesper Lundgaard, Jim McNeely, Dick Oatts and Bob Rockwell played in the band. At the beginning of 1979, Thad Jones moved to Scandinavia; Mel Lewis led the orchestra under his name on; he undertook Bob Brookmeyer as principal arranger and " gave the Wind Ensemble by adding a French horn and bass clarinet new colors. " After Mel Lewis died in 1990, was continued in the big band as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra; initially acted pianist Jim McNeely ( a veteran of the Jones / Lewis band ) as Composer in Residence. At present (2013 ) is passed, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra by John Mosca.


JE Berendt states that " make [ them ] no concessions to the rock spirit of the day and have nevertheless been able to create a big orchestral jazz, no one is the attribute 'contemporary' fail. The experience of jazz from all eras, including the jazz of the sixties and the music of John Coltrane and the post- Coltrane era have gone into the arrangements. [ ... ] ". Thad Jones and Mel Lewis it was " able to give her orchestra now over the years, waiving instrumentation tricks and fashionable antics some easily identifiable sound. " Gary Giddins compared the orchestra with the big band of Gil Evans ( The Monday Night Orchestra ) and various ensembles of Charles Mingus.

According to Martin Kunzler the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis band has " the big orchestral jazz, as seemed to him no chance to stay blazed new paths. "


The orchestra was several times nominated for a Grammy; 1967 Best in category jazz instrumental performance - Big Band ( Live at the Village Vanguard ), 1969 ( Central Park North ), 1970 ( Consummation ), 1975 ( Potpourri ) and 1976 (New Life). In 1975 it received the award for best instrumental arrangement for Living for the City ( from the album medley ) and 1978 for best jazz instrumental performance - Big Band ( album Live in Munich ). Furthermore, there was the big band from 1972 to 1977 several times winner of both the Critics ' Poll and the Readers' Poll of Downbeat.


  • Presenting Thad Jones / Mel Lewis and the Jazz Orchestra (Solid State Records, 1966)
  • Presenting Joe Williams and Thad Jones / Mel Lewis, The Jazz Orchestra (Solid State, 1966)
  • The Big Band Sound of Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Featuring Miss Ruth Brown (Solid State, 1968)
  • Monday Night (Solid State, 1968)
  • Central Park North (Solid State, 1969)
  • Basle, 1969 ( TCB Music, 1969, ed 1996)
  • Consummation (Solid State / Blue Note, 1970)
  • Suite for Pops ( Horizon / A & M, 1972)
  • Live in Tokyo ( Denon Jazz, 1974)
  • Potpourri (Philadelphia International, 1974)
  • Thad Jones / Mel Lewis and Manuel De Sica ( Pausa, 1974)
  • New Life: Dedicated to Max Gordon ( A & M, 1975)
  • Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra with Rhoda Scott ( also with Rhoda Scott in New York ..., Barclays, 1976)
  • Live in Munich ( Horizon / A & M, 1976)
  • It Only Happens Every Time ( EMI Records, 1977), with Monica Zetterlund
  • Body and Soul (also Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra in Europe, West Wind, 1978)
  • A Touch of Class (West Wind, 1978)
  • The Complete Solid State Recordings of the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra ( Mosaic Records, ed 1994; 7 LPs, 4 CDs with Bill Berry, Richard Williams, Bob Brookmeyer, Tom McIntosh, Jerome Richardson, Jerry Dodgion, Joe Farrell, Eddie Daniels, Pepper Adams, Hank Jones, Richard Davis, Snooky Young, Marvin trunk, Garnett Brown, Phil Woods, Roland Hanna, Jimmy Cleveland, Jimmy Knepper, Seldon Powell, Eddie Bert, Benny Powell, Joe Temperley, Al Porcino, Julius Watkins, Howard Johnson, Billy Harper, Richie Kamuca )

Further Reading