A trumpeter with a harmonically advanced style and a crisp sound, Thad Jones (1923-1986) also gained fame as an arranger and composer, with “A Child Is Born” being his best-known original.
The younger brother of pianist Hank Jones and the older brother of drummer Elvin Jones, Thad was self-taught on trumpet. He began working professionally when he was 16 and, after serving in the military, he worked throughout the Midwest. As a member of the Billy Mitchell quintet during 1950-1953, Jones was an important part of the Detroit jazz scene. He worked with Charles Mingus in 1954, the same year that he began a nine-year stint with the Count Basie orchestra. During that period he became famous for his solo on “April in Paris” and developed his writing abilities.
The Fabulous Thad Jones was the trumpeter’s debut as a leader. Originally released by Charles Mingus’s Debut label, this CD reissue features Jones with Mingus in an adventurous quartet and with tenor saxophonist Frank Wess on a Count Basie–oriented mini-set. Jones’ solos are never predictable. Also available in the Original Jazz Classics series is 1957’s After Hours, a jam session–flavored set with Wess, guitarist Kenny Burrell, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Arthur Taylor, and pianist Mal Waldron, who contributed all four selections.
After leaving the Basie band, Jones joined the staff of CBS, co-led a quintet with baritonist Pepper Adams, and in late 1965 organized a classic big band with drummer Mel Lewis. 1966’s Mean What You Say is a quintet outing with Adams, Lewis, pianist Duke Pearson, and bassist Ron Carter. The magic of the musical partnership between Jones (who sticks to flugelhorn) and Adams is apparent and this high-quality hard-bop set is one of Thad Jones’s finest outings with a small group.
The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra lasted 12 years until Jones made the sudden decision in 1978 to leave the band and move to Denmark. While overseas, he continued playing and writing and, upon his return, he led the Count Basie Orchestra for a year before increasingly bad health forced him to retire.