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Mel Lewis Orchestra/Thad Jones: All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Recordings at the Village Vanguard

Album Remarks & Appraisals:

The very first recordings of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra captured live opening night on February 7, 1966 at the Village Vanguard, several months before the run of classic recordings were done for Sonny Lester's Solid State Records. Released in a beautifully designed deluxe, 6-panel digi-pak housing an impressive 60-page plus booklet full of rare & previously unpublished photos, historic essays, memoirs and interviews with all the living members of the band.

Album Notes

A thrilling, thoughtfully curated two-disc collection, Resonance Records' All My Yesterdays presents the debut 1964 performances of the innovative Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. Recorded by Resonance Records founder George Klabin, then a 19-year-old college sophomore, jazz radio DJ, and budding sound engineer at Columbia University, these recordings showcase the band in two uproariously received performances at the legendary Village Vanguard, their home for 50 years and counting. Initially intended as a way to attract a record deal for the band, the tracks have remained largely unheard by the general public. Here, they are presented in full with a detailed liner-notes booklet featuring pictures, essays, and interviews with Klabin and others. Recorded by Klabin alone, using minimal equipment by modern standards, with only the musicians themselves to help move microphones as needed, the recordings sound remarkably clear and capture the electric atmosphere of the band's debut. Highlighted by Jones' bop-oriented trumpet solos and grounded by Lewis' rhythm section featuring pianist Hank Jones, guitarist Sam Herman, and bassist Richard Davis, the orchestra was a lithe, forward-thinking yet always swinging entity that helped move large ensembles into the post-bop era. It also didn't hurt that the band was populated with a cross-generational cadre of virtuoso musicians including saxophonists Joe Farrell, Pepper Adams and Eddie Daniels; trumpeters Jimmy Owens and Snooky Young; trombonist Bob Brookmeyer; and others. All of this is quite evident on these recordings, which put you front and center at the Village Vanguard on February 7, 1966 as saxophonist Jerry Dodgion soulfully leads the band into an explosive version of Jones' swinging, gospel-inflected blues "Back Bone." From that moment onward the band rarely lets up, with Lewis driving the arrangements with his roiling, foot-tapping pulse and Jones calling out solos and improvised background phrases. The second disc of music, recorded March 21, 1966, features an equally captivating performance from the band and a longer set list, including dynamic versions of "Low Down," "Ah, That's Freedom," "Mean What You Say," and more. While the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra has an extensive oeuvre of recorded music to enjoy, All My Yesterdays captures the band at its brilliant, joyous start. ~ Matt Collar


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