THE VANGUARD JAZZ ORCHESTRA’S THAD JONES CENTENNIAL PROJECT
DICK OATTS, lead alto saxophone and Artistic Director
NICK MARCHIONE, lead trumpet
MARSHALL GILKES, lead trombone
DOUGLAS PURVIANCE, bass trombone
ADAM BIRNBAUM, piano
DAVID WONG, bass
JOHN RILEY, drums
One of the most innovative composers of jazz orchestra music, Thad Jones, was born in Pontiac Michigan on March 28, 1923. The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (VJO), founded as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra will celebrate Thad’s centennial year with a new recording of the maestro’s music. The VJO is preparing a recording of new found music of Thad Jones as well as revisiting some of the original music that started the orchestra’s Monday Night residency at the august and famous Village Vanguard in NYC. The project will be recorded live at the Village Vanguard with a finished product scheduled for December 2023.
A list of compositions that are being considered for the project include four lost compositions that have never been performed or recorded ("Tribute to a Statesman," "The Forever Flower," "Live Life This Day" and "Blues for a Workshop"); three relatively unknown compositions that Thad composed in Europe - Return Journey Suite (Part 1: Return Journey, Part 2: Ritual, Part 3: Rejoice).
“This music is vintage Thad and definitely sounds like it could have been written for this band. And who better to bring this music to a wider audience than the VJO?” DICK OATTS
The VJO is also considering including some of the music that Thad composed for the Count Basie Band but reject by Mr. Basie (The Second Race, The Little Pixie, A-That’s Freedom, Low Down, Backbone, All My Yesterdays and Big Dipper.
“It was not that these arrangements were poor; as a matter of fact, they are among the most highly regarded big band music ever written” Chris Smith – The View From the Back of the Band
In 1965, Thad Jones, along with drummer Mel Lewis and a collection of new compositions by Thad (composed for Count Basie but were rejected for being too progressive for the Basie Band) created a contemporary big band that changed the direction of large jazz ensemble composition and performance.
From the very beginning, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra captivated the jazz world with the fresh sound of Jones’ writing, Lewis’ incredible command of the ensemble and an entirely new approach to the big band genre. The band emphasized a “small group within the big band” concept, allowing its many top-flight jazz soloists to stretch out and play much longer than was previously typical in large ensembles.
When Jones unexpectedly moved to Denmark in 1979, Lewis kept the band together, and changed the name to The Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. After Lewis passed away in 1990, the band became the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and continued to honor the legacy established by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra established itself as the premier practitioners of the music of Thad Jones while continuing to push the boundaries of the big band idiom.
FAST FORWARD TO 2022
It’s been over 40 years since Thad Jones left New York and moved to Europe, ending a hugely successful 13-year partnership with Mel Lewis that established, what is still today, the most influential big bands in modern jazz. Other than two pieces that he sent directly to the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra in 1985 (an original composition, “Interloper,” and his arrangement of the jazz standard “All Of Me”), the band has never performed or recorded any of Thad’s music written between 1979 and his death in 1986.
Note: The four lost compositions have been sitting on the Kendor (Thad’s publisher) shelves for almost 40 years.
“I’ve been playing Thad’s music for 40 years now and I continue to be amazed at how timeless and unique his writing is. It’s very exciting for the VJO to be able to bring to life so many pieces of Thad’s that most audiences have never heard before." DOUGLAS PURVIANCE
It’s been over 40 years since Thad Jones left New York and moved to Europe, ending a hugely successful 13-year partnership with Mel Lewis that established, what is still today, the most influential big band in modern jazz. One of the primary goals of the project is to take great care in the preparation and recording of this music in order to ensure that the finest documentation will be available to future generations of jazz listeners and performers. The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra has dedicated itself to keeping the music of Thad Jones in the forefront, and developing a diverse appreciation for his wonderful mastery of jazz composition.
To pre-order this recording contact Thomas Bellino at: PlanetArts@gmail.com