Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Thaddeus Joseph Jones, 28 March '23, Pontiac MI; d 20 Aug. '86, Copenhagen) Trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn, composer. Brother of Hank and Elvin Jones; worked with them in Detroit late '30s. Served in US Army WWII; on the road after the war with revues, etc. He was the first and remained the only artist to sign a contract with Charles Mingus's Debut label, made his first album '54 with brother Hank, Frank Wess, Mingus and Kenny Clarke as well as other Mingus workshop sessions on Debut and Period; but Debut was so broke that Mingus would come along to play on Jones's sessions for other labels. There was a Metronome All-Star track on Clef with Mingus '55 etc; meanwhile Jones joined Count Basie '54--63 and was a major contributor to that band along with Ernie Wilkins, Frank Foster, Wess and Neal Hefti. He made a superb contribution to Thelonious Monk's 5 By Monk By 5 '59 on Riverside (now on Fantasy), wrote an album for Harry James '63; played with Monk at Carnegie Hall, worked with Gerry Mulligan, carried on writing for Basie, joined music staff at CBS network, all '64. Co-led quintet with Pepper Adams '65 (LP Mean What You Say on Milestone) incl. Mel Lewis on drums; that year Jones and Lewis formed a big band that played Monday nights at the Village Vanguard for many years and became a legend. Jones wrote most of the arrangements (with contributions from Bobby Brookmeyer and others); the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra recorded for Horizon, Blue Note and Solid State: the Solid State tracks were compiled on a five-CD/seven-LP set on Mosaic '95, a Swiss Radio concert from its first European tour '69 released on TCB '96 with Roland Hanna, Jimmy Knepper, vocalist Joe Williams etc. Jones and Lewis also recorded with the Swedish Radio Jazz Group (Greetings And Salutations '75 on Biograph).

Jones left the band abruptly '78 and moved to Denmark; he had been planning the break for some time. He worked with the Danish Radio Big Band; Lewis carried on with the band at the Village Vanguard (for more on that band, see his entry). Lewis told Cadence that part of the reason Jones lost interest may have been the almost complete change in personnel in 13 years; they were finding good young players but the founder members had all gone. Before leaving NYC Jones had played on arr./cond. Heiner Stadler's album A Tribute To Monk And Bird early '78 with a sextet incl. George Lewis, Stanley Cowell, George Adams, Reggie Workman and drummer Lenny White; issued on a Tomato two-LP set, later on CD, also briefly on Affinity in Britain, the album is still obscure, though described as one of the best albums of the decade; one critic wrote 'Anyone who believes that jazz can no longer shock with the force of a completely independent identity, that nothing remains to be discovered, should hear these performances...' A combo called the Thad Jones Eclipse (with Horace Parlan) recorded on the Danish Metronome label; Three And One on Steeplechase is a quartet LP. Played on highly-rated Joe Williams album on Delos '85; led Count Basie Orchestra on tour '85, left because of ill health. His writing and flugelhorn playing with the Jones/Lewis band for many years proved, if it needed proving, that big-band jazz was still a valid genre. His best-known composition 'A Child Is Born' has become a standard. Tribute The Great One '94 on Da Capo was subtitled 'Danish Radio Big Band Plays Thad Jones'.