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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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The Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra - The Definitive Thad Jones; Live from the Village Vanguard

NIMBUS NI 2706/07 [51:07 + 46:38]

 

 


CD 1

Low Down
Soloist: Glenn Drewes, trumpet
Quietude
Soloist: Kenny Werner, piano
Three in One
Soloists: John Mosca, trombone, Gary Smulyan, baritone saxophone, Dennis Irwin, bass
Walkin' About
Soloists: Dick Oatts, alto saxophone, Ralph Lalama, tenor saxophone
Little Pixie
Soloists: Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone, Ted Nash, alto saxophone, Ralph Lalama, tenor saxophone, Gary Smulyan, baritone saxophone, Dick Oatts, alto saxophone, Mel Lewis, drums
CD 2

Second Race
Soloists: Dennis Irwin, bass, Jim Powell, trumpet, Ralph Lalama, tenor saxophone
Tip Toe
Soloists: Kenny Werner, piano, Mel Lewis, drums, Glenn Drewes, trumpet, Ted Nash, alto saxophone, Earl Gardner, thumb in cheek, Earl Mclntyre, cabassa
Don't Get Sassy
Soloists: Kenny Werner, piano, Glenn Drewes, trumpet, Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone
Rhoda Map
Soloists: Ed Neumeister, trombone, Ralph Lalama, tenor saxophone
Cherry Juice
Soloists: Jim Powell, flugelhorn, Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone, Kenny Werner, piano
The Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra
rec. Village Vanguard, New York City, 11-15 February 1988
Original recording from the MusicMasters catalogue. Released under exclusive licence to Wyastone Estate Limited

 

Recorded at the Village Vanguard in February 1988 this is another of the increasingly valuable stable of MusicMasters issues licensed to - and re-released by - Nimbus’s Jazz wing. It charts the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra in hard swinging and superb form playing a folio of tunes composed and arranged by Thad Jones. The resultant discs offer a plethora of pleasures and few if any longeurs.

Given the origin of the tunes one would expect nothing less than excellence. That applies as well to the soloists, who are all duly noted in the booklet. Trumpeter Glenn Drewes has an extensive outing on Low Down whilst pianist Kenny Werner is an apt choice for the harmonically evocative Quietude. Thad Jones had clearly listened to Benny Carter’s arranging for the saxophone section; his voicing and the undulating, elastic melodic phraseology lies behind Jones’ writing in Three in One where John Mosca takes a fast lipping fractious trombone solo. The Basie pay-off in Walkin’ About is wholly appropriate given that it was a Basie tribute – but note too Thad Jones’ typically bulgy lower brass writing, the bluesy alto of Dick Oatts and the Rollins-influenced tenor of Ralph Lalama.

Joe Lovano solos on Little Pixie in a sax section of himself, Ted Nash, Oatts, Lalama, and Gary Smulyan (not bad!). This track has a definite feel of something out of the famed Carter Further Definitions LP and has one good solo after another topped by watertight ensemble work, shifting accompanying patterns, ebullient bass work and Lewis’s unflashy, unflappable drum work.

Tip Toe gets a Latin American workout and Don’t Get Sassy fortunately, ironically, doesn’t live up to its name with some sassy Eldridge-derived brass playing from Drewes, some gloriously inventive Lovano and a locked groove from the whole band – terrific stuff and a real highlight. But as I said it’s just one of many. The band had individual and corporate strengths that generated music at the highest level. Extensive and very readable notes complete this class package.

Jonathan Woolf



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