Presenting Thad Jones & Mel Lewis & The Jazz Orchestra / Live At The Village Vanguard / Big Band Sound Featuring Miss Ruth Brown

A trio of classics from the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra! First up is the initial Presenting album – great music by one of the hippest large American ensembles of the late 60s – almost a US equivalent to the groovy sound of the Clark Boland Big Band over in Europe! Trumpeter Thad Jones and drummer Mel Lewis had already made some great music together on their own – but once they came together in a record like this, they really found a great new direction for their energy – a bold musical force that's strong enough to also encompass the rich talents of players who include Pepper Adams on baritone sax, Joe Farrell on tenor, Jerome Richardson on soprano sax, Richard Williams on trumpet, Bob Brookmeyer and Tom McIntosh on trombones, Hank Jones on piano, and Richard Davis on bass! The sound is full, but never overwhelming – and like the Clark Boland group, this one has a great way of breaking open to allow key soloists to have some great space on their own – a modern approach, and one that still never has the band losing its groove. Titles include "ABC Blues", "Mean What You Say", "Three & One", and "Once Around". 

The next album was recorded live in the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis home turf at the Village Vanguard! The group at this point was a freshly-created outfit filled with some of the best large group jazz soloists of the time – players that included Jerome Richardson, Joe Farrell, Eddie Daniels, Pepper Adams, Richard Williams, and Bob Brookmeyer – not to mention Jones and Lewis themselves! The style here is very much in the mode that the Clarke Boland Band was crafting in Europe during the same period – a redefinition of the larger jazz group, in a way that allowed it to swing with the dynamic energy and soul of some of the smaller combos of the 60s. And while the Jones/Lewis group had many years over which to hone their craft, they've never sounded better than on these initial recordings – as you'll hear on tracks that include "Samba Con Getchu", "A That's Freedom", "Bachafillen", and "Little Pixie".  

On the last album in the set, Ruth Brown joins the big band of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis – in a set that's a real standout in the career of all three artists! Thad and Mel already have a pretty great groove going at this point – a large ensemble approach to jazz, yet one that's swingingly soulful – very much on a par with some of Gerald Wilson's hip work of the same time at time. And adding in Ruth Brown's vocals is a great choice – as she not only needs a great showcase like this for her amazing voice, but also because she really helps unlock a soulful sort of energy that the group always had in their instrumental music. The approach is a bit like some of Etta Jones' best 60s recordings – a nice shift for Brown – and titles include "Black Coffee", "Fine Brown Frame", "You Won't Let Go", "Trouble In Mind", and "Be Anything (But Be Mine)". ~ Dusty Groove