The Vanguard Jazz Orchestr: Trumpets: Earl Gardner (Lead), Joe Mosello, Glen Drewes, Scott Wendholt; Trombones: John Mosca (Lead), Ed Neumeister, Douglas Purviance, Earl McIntyre; Reeds: Dick Oatts (Lead alto and soprano saxophones, flute), Billy Drewes (alto and soprano saxophones, flute), Rich Perry (tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute), Ralph LaLama (tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute), Gary Smulyan (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet); Rhythm Section: Jim McNeely (piano), John Riley (drums), Dennis Irwin (bass)
The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra is the current title for the band that began life as the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra in 1966 and has performed continuously ever since. The band's Monday-night performances at New York's Village Vanguard for the last thirty-one years is a tradition without parallel.
This CD features the compositions of internationally-known composer and arranger Jim McNeely. McNeely freely acknowledges the deep influences of Thad Jones and Bob Brookmeyer, and the echoes are easy to hear. His total command of the harmony, colors, and textures available from a jazz orchestra, plus a superior sense of form and development, is evident throughout. Mix in his knowledge of the unique tonal qualities of his bandmates and what you've got is 60-plus minutes of fiercely swinging (Thad, Mel), lyrical (In The Wee Small Hours, Reflection), wild and woolly (Lickety Split, Sticks), and reflective (Absolution) music that honors not only the band's glorious tradition but the big band tradition itself. The jaw-dropping ensemble blend on Mel, to cite just one example, will dispel all doubts.
Quiet as its been kept, Jim McNeely is one of the most impressive jazz composers to emerge in the past decade, and he couldn't have a better ensemble to play his writing than this one. One of the greatest big bands in jazz history isn't just history. Its right now, and still growing. Just listen.