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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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THAD JONES &
MEL LEWIS

Presenting Thad Jones, Mel Lewis & "The Jazz Orchestra"/
Live At The Village Vanguard/
The Big Band Sound of Thad Jones & Mel Lewis Featuring Miss Ruth Brown

BGO Records BGOCD 1068

 

 

CD1
Presenting Thad Jones, Mel Lewis & "The Jazz Orchestra"
1. Once Around
2. Willow Weep For Me
3. Balanced Scales = Justice
4. Three In One
5. Mean What You Say
6. Don't Ever Leave Me
7. ABC Blues
 
Thad Jones - Flugelhorn
Mel Lewis - Drums
Jerome Richardson, Jerry Dodgion, Joe Farrell, Eddie Daniels, Pepper Adams - Saxes
Jimmy Nottingham, Richard Williams, Danny Stiles, Bill Berry - Trumpets
Bob Brookmeyer, Jack Rains, Tom McIntosh, Cliff Heather - Trombones
Richard Davis - Bass
Hank Jones - Piano
Sam Herman - Guitar
 
Live At The Village Vanguard
8. Little Pixie
9. 'A' That's Freedom
10. Bacha Feeling
 
Thad Jones - Flugelhorn
Mel Lewis - Drums
Jerome Richardson, Jerry Dodgion, Joe Farrell, Eddie Daniels, Pepper Adams - Saxes
Snooky Young, Jimmy Nottingham, Marvin Stamm, Richard Williams, Bill Berry - Trumpets
Bob Brookmeyer, Garnett Brown, Tom McIntosh, Cliff Heather - Trombones
Roland Hanna - Piano
Richard Davis - Bass
Sam Herman - Guitar, shaker


CD2
Live At The Village Vanguard
1. Don't Get Sassy
2. Willow Tree
3. Samba Con Getchu
 
Personnel same as above
 
The Big Band Sound Of Thad Jones & Mel Lewis Featuring Miss Ruth Brown
4. Yes Sir, That's My Baby
5. Trouble In Mind
6. Sonny Boy
7. Bye Bye Blackbird
8. I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town
9. Black Coffee
10. Be Anything (But Be Mine)
11. You Won't Let Me Go
12. Fine Brown Frame
 
Ruth Brown - Vocals
Thad Jones - Flugelhorn
Mel Lewis - Drums
Jerome Richardson, Jerry Dodgion, Eddie Daniels, Seldon Powell, Pepper Adams - Saxes
Snooky Young, Richard Williams, Jimmy Nottingham, Danny Moore, Bill Berry - Trumpets
Garnett Brown, Jimmy Knepper, Cliff Heather, Jimmy Cleveland - Trombones
Roland Hanna - Piano
Richard Davis - Bass
 

 

When a group of New York-based studio musicians gathered together in December 1965 for a rehearsal under the guidance of an ex-Count Basie trumpeter Thad Jones, and an ex-Stan Kenton drummer Mel Lewis, little did they suspect that this inauspicious beginning would lead to the creation of one of the most prodigious and exemplary big bands in jazz.

The three original 12" LP albums that have been re-issued here by BGO Records in exemplary fashion were first released between 1966 and 1968, by Solid State Records which had been formed in the 60s by Sonny Lester, Phil Ramone and Manny Album as the jazz division of United Artists Records. Solid State was devoted to using advanced recording techniques to produce vinyl records of the highest quality, and this underlying commitment certainly shows up as the basis for these digitally remastered CDs. In all, Jones & Lewis cut seven albums for Solid State and if BGO Records could find a way to re-issue the remaining four sessions, record collectors would undoubtedly be happy.

One of the key elements in making this all-star aggregation different from any run-of-the-mill organization was going to be the band book. Thad Jones, who had been with the Basie band for nine years as a sideman, was also responsible for developing some new tunes for the band. However, his efforts did not turn out well as the arrangements were too difficult and complex for the band which was used to the standard Basie repertoire. But for the new band whose members were participants in the New York TV and recording industry, the arrangements would not be daunting, despite the multi-layered harmonic coloration and the intricate compositional structures.

In both "The Jazz Orchestra" and Live, the composer-arranger Thad Jones takes most of the credit for the performed compositions, with Bob Brookmeyer the other regular contributor. Starting with Once Around, Jones gives us a sense of what lies ahead, by demonstrating how the band will use the ensemble passages to set up the soloists in symmetry. Pepper Adams on baritone and Hank Jones on piano shine in their efforts. Willow Weep For Me is Brookmeyer's endeavor and shows a very different style than Jones, with a more classic approach through his use of woodwinds combined with a muted trumpet. However, Brookmeyer places himself front and center with a nimble solo. No fault can be found with any of the other tracks in the first album.

When the Village Vanguard date emerges, the live audience gives these tracks an added dimension of electricity and immediacy. One senses that you are sitting in the middle of the orchestra and its musical power is ready to envelope the listener. Little Pixie, and `A' That's Freedom were Jones' compositions that he had written and arranged for the Count Basie band but which had been turned aside by Basie. And now one can see why. For the first tune, Jones sets out a dazedly syncopated but firmly expressed sax section with subdued brass figures behind on the opening theme. Further exchanges between the brass, rhythm and sax section punctuate several choruses and the pianist Roland Hanna takes two solo choruses followed by Joe Farrell's tenor sax for a series of solos. Similar intricacies are found throughout the piece. The other selection is a sixteen-bar blues with the traditional twelve measures with Hanna's piano and the rhythm section giving it a ride for two choruses. This lays the foundation for trombonist Garnett Brown to pick up the theme and make it his own. The other tracks from this session are all gems, but Bob Brookmeyer's arrangement of the little-heard Fats Waller tune Willow Tree is especially evocative, with Thad Jones trumpet playing over a beautifully voiced reed section, followed by Richard Davis' bass lines supported by pianist Hanna's fills.

The idea of paring R&B icon Ruth Brown with the Jones/Lewis band probably came from producer Sonny Lester and what a fine notion it was. Blessed with a commanding voice along the lines of Dinah Washington, Brown was able to hold her own in front of this powerhouse band. Supported by superior charts from Thad Jones which always seem to be percolating just under the surface, Brown lays down the law on such treats as Trouble In Mind, I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town and You Won't Let Me Go. This is an excellent outing all the way through.

This compilation focuses on the early days of this marvellous band and brings a fresh significance to its place in jazz.

Pierre Giroux



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