It started in 1966 as a three-week agreement among composer and conductor Thad Jones, drummer Mel Lewis and Max Gordon, the proprietor of The Village Vanguard in New York. And it continues, gloriously. Celebrating 46 years of Monday nights, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra plays the music of founder Thad Jones and its late musical director, Bob Brookmeyer — from "ABC Blues" to "My Centennial" — on JazzSet.
Thad Jones and Mel Lewis founded this orchestra. Lewis was the drummer, driving the music from within. Jones, coming out of the Count Basie band, was out front. Jones' charts screamed "new." As a conductor, he had charisma, and he played a wonderful cornet and flugelhorn.
After Thad Jones' departure in the late 1970s, Bob Brookmeyer — one of the original trombone players — became musical director. "First we swing," he said, "then we look ahead, basing our innovations on our experiences." His participation was not continuous, but when Brookmeyer died in 2011, he was working on a new VJO project titled Suite for Three, and the band plays a movement from it here.
To this day, people ask host Dee Dee Bridgewater, "What was it like to tour Europe four times with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra?" Listen for her answer and a full set of great music from a band born to play it.
Trumpets: Nick Marchione (lead), Tanya Darby, Terell Stafford, Scott Wendholt; trombones: John Mosca (lead, co-leader), Luis Bonilla, Jason Jackson, Douglas Purviance (bass trombone, co-leader); alto saxophones and winds: Dick Oatts (lead), Billy Drewes; tenor saxophones and winds: Ralph LaLama, Rich Perry; Gary Smulyan, baritone saxophone and bass clarinet; Michael Weiss, piano; David Wong, bass; John Riley, drums.
Congratulations to Josh Jackson, Patrick Jarenwattananon, David Tallacksen and the WBGO/NPR team for 50 live webcasts and broadcasts from The Village Vanguard. Thanks to Lorraine Gordon, proprietor. Surround Sound mix by Duke Markos.