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Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra


Thad Jones, who was featured in the Count Basie Orchestra, and LA based drummer Mel Lewis, who played with Stan Kenton Orchestra, started the band in 1966 with some of the top studio musicians in NY. The beautiful melodies and unique arrangements of Thad Jones enchanted the audience. The mixture of the music from diverse backgrounds created the innovative sound and the band was quickly recognized as a world's class big band.

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Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra

In 1978, Thad Jones moved to Europe, but the band continued as the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. In addition to the masterpieces by Thad, they actively employed new and original arrangements by Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely etc. Those new arrangements were complex and avant-garde, but the fundamental band color and swing was maintained. Their excellent artistry maintained their high reputation.

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Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

After Mel Lewis passed away in 1990 the band changed its name to the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Their performances can be seen at NY's famous jazz club, the Village Vanguard, every Monday night where they continue to pay tribute to their founders Thad and Mel, while still debuting groundbreaking new works.

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1966-2016: 50th Anniversary

In 2016 the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra celebrated the 50 year anniversary of their Monday night residency at the Vanguard.  It was commemorated in a beautiful hard cover book and recognized by the PBS News Hour in a segment viewable here.