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Thad Jones / Mel Lewis: An Absolutely Essential Recording

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The Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra, 1966

If jazz bands were like classic muscle cars measured by power and torque, the high performance Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra was an inexhaustible engine that roared. February 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of this historic 18-member band and All My Yesterdays (Resonance Records) is the double-disc recording that documents their debut performances in February and March 1966.

The precision, sophistication, and style were trend-setting. Their modern sound remains influential to this day.

Defined by super-sized swing, a bold brass section with the likes of Pepper Adams, Bob Brookmeyer and Joe Farrell, and a dream rhythm section led by legendary drummer Mel Lewis (bassist Richard Davis, pianist Hank Jones, and guitarist Sam Herman), the band’s precision, sophistication, and style were trend-setting. Their modern sound remains influential to this day.  

The camaraderie is tangible—and now restored to perfection—on this live recording by producer George Klabin when he was 19 years old. The superb sound puts you right at a front table at the Vanguard, and the feeling is electrifying.

The mini-documentary on the making of the 1966 recording:

Thad Jones is the former Basie trumpeter who leads the band like a revival meeting, shouting the jazz gospel with enthusiastic approval, calling out the solos on fun, crowd-pleasing tracks “Big Dipper,” “Mornin’ Reverend” and “Back Bone.” Jones is one of the best trumpet players ever; his solo on “The Little Pixie” is loose, swinging and brings a requisite soulfulness that’s unshakeable.

This is an absolutely essential recording.

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