50 Years at the Village Vanguard
In the middle of their careers, the trumpeter and composer/arranger Thad Jones and the drummer Mel Lewis found themselves with a book of big band music -- and no band to perform it. So they made their own, handpicking some of New York's top talent across age and color lines. They rehearsed on Monday nights, when guys could actually make rehearsal. And by the time they debuted on a Monday in February 1966 at the famed Village Vanguard, they were already a force to be reckoned with, soon to become the most influential big band of the last 50 years. The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, now the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, still plays every Monday night. Jazz Night In America heads to the basement jazz shrine to see the band's 50th anniversary show, full of cuts from Thad's songbook, and tells the story of how the band came to be.
(photo: Jimmy Katz Photography)