Big-Band Music Without the Weight of Nostalgia
You have to work a little at understanding Thad Jones, the trumpeter and composer. He arrived in New York in 1954, a decade after bebop exploded. He spent nine years playing and arranging with the Count Basie band, and made some lovely but generally overlooked small-group records under his own name. In the mid-1960's, when so much jazz was open-ended, small-group expressionism, he directed all his energies toward an immaculately sculptured big band.
Big-band music was well over by then, and this was not music for kids. Jones was in his 40's when the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis orchestra began. (Its repertory is still played weekly by the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.) It was built mostly of skilled studio musicians about his age, not young, freelancing upstarts. It played hot and curious music, but pop culture gave it a different association. Since it evolved from Basie, it carried a whiff of shiny 50's entertainment: many listeners today might associate the Basie-band swing phrasing with the "Tonight" show bandleaders Skitch Henderson and Doc Severinsen.
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