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A harmonically advanced trumpeter/cornetist with a distinctive sound, as well as a talented arranger/composer, Thad Jones (the younger brother of Hank and older brother of Elvin) had a very productive career. Self-taught on trumpet, he started playing professionally with Hank Jones and Sonny Stitt when he was 16. After serving in the military (1943-1946), Jones worked in territory bands in the Midwest. During 1950-1953 he performed regularly with Billy Mitchell's quintet in Detroit and he made a few recordings with Charles Mingus (1954-1955). Jones became well-known during his long period (1954-1963) with Count Basie's Orchestra, taking a "Pop Goes the Weasel" chorus on "April in Paris," and sharing solo duties with Joe Newman. While with Basie, Jones had the opportunity to write some arrangements and he became a busy freelance writer after 1963. He joined the staff of CBS, co-led a quintet with Pepper Adams, and near the end of 1965, organized a big band with drummer Mel Lewis that from February 1966 on, played Monday nights at the Village Vanguard. During the next decade the orchestra (although always a part-time affair) became famous and gave Jones an outlet for his writing. He composed one standard ("A Child Is Born") along with many fine pieces including "Fingers," "Little Pixie," and "Tiptoe." Among the sidemen in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra (which started out as an all-star group and later on featured younger players) were trumpeters Bill Berry, Danny Stiles, Richard Williams, Marvin Stamm, Snooky Young, and Jon Faddis, trombonists Bob Brookmeyer, Jimmy Knepper, and Quentin Jackson, the reeds of Jerome Richardson, Jerry Dodgion, Eddie Daniels, Joe Farrell, Pepper Adams, and Billy Harper, pianists Hank Jones and Roland Hanna, and bassists Richard Davis and George Mraz. In 1978, Jones surprised Lewis by suddenly leaving the band and moving to Denmark, an action he never explained. He wrote for a radio orchestra and led his own group called Eclipse. In late 1984 Jones took over the leadership of the Count Basie Orchestra but within a year bad health forced him to retire. Thad Jones recorded as a leader for Debut (1954-1955), Blue Note, Period, United Artists, Roulette, Milestone, Solid State, Artists House, A&M, Metronome, and many of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra's best recordings have been reissued on a five-CD Mosaic box set. ~ Scott Yanow
Thaddeus Joseph Jones
28 March 1923 in Pontiac, MI
'50s, '60s, '70s, '80s