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Thad Jones

Thaddeus Joseph Jones

Trumpeter, Composer, Arranger, Bandleader

(1924 - 1986)

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Thad Jones is a member of an elite trio of jazz musicians which includes his older brother, pianist Hank, and younger brother, drummer Elvin. Individually these accomplished musicians have impacted the direction of modern jazz.

As a teenager Thad played trumpet in his uncle’s band in Michigan and even wrote arrangements. He later picked up the flugelhorn as well. After serving in the Army, where he led a band, he joined Count Basie in 1954 for nine years after which he freelanced as an arranger. In 1965 he and drummer Mel Lewis formed the critically acclaimed Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band. Jones led the band for 12 years before moving to Copenhagen where he led the Danish Radio Big Band, taught at the Royal Danish Conservatory, and formed his own band.

In 1985 Jones returned to the States to lead the Basie band after the leader’s death, but ill health curtailed his activities and he returned to Denmark just months prior to his death in 1986. Jones was a quadruple threat--as a trumpeter (“...the best I’ve ever heard,” according to bassist Charles Mingus), as an innovator, as an arranger, and as a composer. The Jones/Lewis Big Band was not only innovative but its players, comprising the top of the jazz heap, were able to execute musically what most bands could not. Jones’ arrangements and compositions were at the forefront, and the band’s Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Live in Munich album won a Grammy in 1979.

Jones’ most famous composition is “A Child Is Born” which was introduced on his Consummation album and later given lyrics by Alec Wilder. A lovely ballad, it is often included in Christmas collections as well as being performed by numerous jazz musicians including Bill Evans and Tony Bennett.

Reverence for Jones’ entire body of work has continued, most recently with the 2005 recording One More: Music of Thad Jones featuring an all-star group. The Jones/Lewis band continued after the deaths of the leaders as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, taking the name of its Monday night home at the Village Vanguard in New York City. The Orchestra has formed a non-profit, Sixteen as One Music, Inc., to promote the development of jazz through education and community outreach.

- Sandra Burlingame

Opening Night

Thad Jones and Mel Lewis

Live at the Village Vanguard

Thad Jones, Mel Lewis


Thad Jones, Mel Lewis

Together Again

Tony Bennett, Bill Evans

One More: Music of Thad Jones

Various Artists

Magnificent Thad Jones

Thad Jones

Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Live in Munich

Thad Jones, Mel Lewis
Reading and Viewing

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Down Beat: Sixty Years of Jazz

Hal Leonard Corporation

Ralph J. Gleason

Jazz Casual - Thad Jones & Mel Lewis and Woody Herman



Modern Jazz Quartet, Dave Brubeck, Thad Jones

20th Century Jazz Masters



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