Trumpets: Earl Gardner (Lead), Joe Mosello, Glenn Drewes, Scott Wendholt
Trombones: John Mosca (Lead), Ed Neumeister, Jason Jackson, Douglas Purviance (bass trombone)
Reeds: Dick Oatts (Lead alto and soprano saxophones, flute), Billy Drewes (alto and soprano
Saxophones, Flute, Clarinet), Rich Perry (tenor saxophone, flute), Ralph LaLama (tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute), Gary Smulyan (baritone saxophone)
Rhythm Section: Jim McNeely, piano; John Riley, drums; Dennis Irwin, bass
A-That's Freedom, Once Around, Quiet Lady, Central Park North, Your and Mine, Fingers, Groove Merchant, All My Yesterdays, My Centennial
The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra's second outing on New World features the music of its co-founder, Thad Jones (1923-1986), a man whom Mingus spoke of as "the greatest trumpeter that I've heard in this life." After a lengthy tenure with the Basie band, he co-founded, with Mel Lewis, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, which made its debut at the Village Vanguard on February 7, 1966. Thirty three years later, in its current incarnation as The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, it continues to wow audiences every Monday night at its hallowed home.
Jones's big-band compositions, especially post-Basie, employed similar rhythmic lines with astringent block-chord voicings demanding great virtuosity from the performers. They also incorporated some of the more recent freedoms of small-group work and set new standards for the next generation of composers, arrangers, and performers.
The nine charts feature a beautiful mix of ballads ["Quiet Lady," "Yours and Mine," "All My Yesterdays"] and hard-charging numbers ["A-That's Freedom," "Once Around," "My Centennial"]. "Central Park North" is a wonderful blend of things-dissonance with swiveling hips. The fourteen-minute showstopper, "Fingers," is a springboard for a series of flying solos based on the chord changes of Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm." As such, it has an impressive pedigree: Duke Ellington's "Cotton Tail," with its landmark solo by Ben Webster, was based on "I Got Rhythm" too, and Jones proves himself worthy of comparison to the master with a saxophone chorus as breathtaking as Ellington and Webster's (but with a soprano lead-a typical Jones touch). Loving, fresh, and above all, SWINGING interpretations-executed with the customary panache-which honor the band's glorious tradition and confirm its status as the paragon among today's big bands.
Reviews"...the true star of this stellar recording is the arrangements themselves, which feature individual solo statements displayed within a tersely structured environment. The band swings with gleeful abandon, as energetic bop inspired solos dance within the more traditional big-band melodies. Far from a nostalgia act, this 16-piece orchestra is the real deal, a living testament to the beauty and artistry of big-band music." - Billboard