Monday, 11 July 2011

Thad Jones

Thaddeus Joseph Jones (March 28, 1923 – August 21, 1986) was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, and bandleader.

Thad Jones was born in Pontiac, Michigan to a musical family of ten (an older brother was pianist Hank Jones and a younger brother was drummer Elvin Jones). Thad Jones was a self taught musician, performing professionally by the age of sixteen. He served in U.S. Army bands during World War II (1943–46).

After Army service including an association with the U.S. Military School of Music and working with area bands in Des Moines and Oklahoma City, Thad became a member of the Count Basie Orchestra in May 1954. He was featured as a soloist on such well-known tunes as April in Paris, Shiny Stockings and Corner Pocket. However, his main contribution was his nearly two dozen arrangements and compositions for the Basie Orchestra, including The Deacon, H.R.H. (Her Royal Highness, in honor of the band’s command performance in London), Counter Block, and lesser known gems such as Speaking of Sounds. His hymn-like ballad To You was performed by the Basie band combined with the Duke Ellington Orchestra in their only recording together, and the recording Dance Along With Basie contains nearly an entire album of Jones’ uncredited arrangements of standard tunes.

Jones left the Basie Orchestra in 1963 to become a freelance arranger and studio player in New York. In 1965, he and drummer Mel Lewis formed The Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra. The group initially began with informal late night jam sessions amongst New York's top studio musicians. The group eventually began performing at the Village Vanguard in February 1966, to wide acclaim, and continued with Jones in the lead for twelve years. They won a 1978 Grammy Award for their album Live in Munich. Jones also taught at William Paterson College in New Jersey, which is now the site of the Thad Jones Archive, containing pencil scores and vintage photos as part of the Living Jazz Archives.

Jones' big band arranging style was unique, especially from the standpoint of featuring dissonant voicings in a tonal context. This required the members of his big band to play correctly in tune, otherwise the dense chords he wrote would not sound correct. Minor 2nds and major 7ths are often featured in his voicings, especially when the entire band plays a long, powerful chord that some would describe as having "bite".

One of the more notable albums he made in this regard is Suite for Pops recorded on the A&M Records "Horizon" label (now out of print) in the early 70's. It also featured the intense bebop improvisations of saxophonist Billy Harper and the high note screech playing of lead trumpet player Jon Faddis.

In later years his playing ability was overshadowed by his composing and arranging skills. His best known composition is the standard "A Child is Born". A year before his death, Jones came back to the U.S. to lead the Count Basie Orchestra but had to step down due to ill health. He returned to his home in Copenhagen for the last few months of his life. He died on August 21, 1986 after being hospitalized for months but his cause of death was not published. At the time of his death he had a six year old child, also named Thad Jones, with his wife Lis Jones, a daughter Thedia and a son Bruce. He is buried in Copenhagen's Vestre Kirkegard Cemetery (Western Churchyard Cemetery).

Thad Jones – The Magnificent Thad Jones

01. April In Paris
02. Billie-dOO
03. If I Love Again
04. If Someone Had Told Me
05. Thedia
06. I’ve Got A Crush On You
07. Something To Remember You By

Personnel: Thad Jones (trumpet); Kenny Burrell (guitar); Billy Mitchell (tenor saxophone); Barry Harris (piano); Percy Heath (bass guitar); Max Roach (drums).

This is a 1956 set by bop trumpeter Thad Jones, with an all-star small combo anchored by drummer Max Roach. The late Thad Jones is of jazz’s royal Jones family, which also includes brothers Hank (piano) and Elvin (drums). A fine trumpeter/flugelhornist (with a distinctively big, mellow tone) and an imaginative composer and engaging arranger, Jones made a name for himself with Charles Mingus and Count Basie. He would also co-lead one of the finest big bands of the 1960's and ’70's, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. But in the ’50s, he helmed some fine hard bop sessions for Blue Note, and Magnificent lives up to its title. With the accompaniment of the superbly subtle drumming of Max Roach and piano by Detroit bop icon Barry Harris, one should require little else when seeking classic Blue Note bop-ery.



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