Thad Jones - trumpet, flugelhorn; Mel Lewis - drums; Harold Danko - piano; Eddie Daniels - tenor sax; Gregory Herbert - tenor sax; Ed Ziques - alto sax; Pepper Adams - baritone sax; Jerry Dodgion - soprano sax; Earl McIntyre - trombone; John Mosca - trombone; Larry Mosely - trumpet; Earl Gardner - trumpet; Jeff Davis - trumpet; Frank Gordon - trumpet; Bob Bowman - bass
A big band juggernaut formed in 1965 by former Count Basie trumpeter Thad Jones and one-time Stan Kenton drummer Mel Lewis, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra was a Monday night institution at the Village Vanguard for 12 years before finally disbanding in 1978, when co-leader Jones quite unexpectedly moved to Copenhagen, Denmark. The group carried on for another 12 years as the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra until Lewis' death in 1990. For the past 20 years, it has continued as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of trombonist John Mosca and alto saxophonist Dick Oatts, maintaining the longstanding Monday night residency at the Village Vanguard.
This appearance at the 1977 Grande Parade du Jazz festival in Nice, France was one of the last outside the United States by the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra.
Thad Jones, from the famous Detroit jazz family, was the younger brother of pianist Hank and older brother of drummer Elvin. After apprenticeships as a teenager with brother Hank and saxophonist Sonny Stitt, he had brief stints with Billy Mitchell's quintet and Charles Mingus' sextet before joining the Count Basie Orchestra in 1954, remaining in that swinging aggregation through 1963. Jones and Lewis joined forces near the end of 1965 and began their longstanding engagement at the Village Vanguard in February, 1966. As principal composer for the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, Jones contributed several tunes that became part of the jazz canon. Two of his most memorable pieces - the invigorating big band chart "Little Pixie" (which was premiered on 1967's Live at the Village Vanguard) and Jones' gorgeous flugelhorn feature "A Child Is Born" (which the band introduced on 1970's Consummation) are performed here. "Little Pixie" is a flag-waving feature for the saxophones, a la "Four Brothers" with Woody Herman's Thundering Herd. After a volley of blistering solos by tenor man Gregory Herbert, altoist Ed Ziques and baritone ace Pepper Adams, the band drops out for a subtly swinging piano solo by Harold Danko, followed by a swinging duet between bassist Bob Bowman and soprano saxophonist Jerry Dodgion. The trumpets are well represented in a free-blowing section near the end of this spirited number. Jones' warm-toned flugelhorn carries the poignant melody on his mellow "A Child Is Born," which also features some soaring tenor sax from Eddie Daniels. (Bill Milkowski)