Thad Jones

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Thad Jones
File:Thad Jones.jpg
Thad Jones
Background information
Birth name Thaddeus Joseph Jones
Born (1923-03-28)March 28, 1923
Origin Pontiac, Michigan, United States
Died August 20, 1986(1986-08-20) (aged 63)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, arranger, bandleader
Instruments Trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn
Associated acts Count Basie, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk

Thaddeus Joseph "Thad" Jones (March 28, 1923 – August 20, 1986) was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, and bandleader.


Thad Jones was born in Pontiac, Michigan 28th March, 1923, to Henry and Olivvia Jones, a musical family of ten (an older brother was pianist Hank Jones and a younger brother was drummer Elvin Jones). Thad Jones was a self-taught musician, performing professionally by the age of sixteen. He served in U.S. Army bands during World War II (1943–46).

After Army service including an association with the U.S. Military School of Music and working with area bands in Des Moines and Oklahoma City, Jones became a member of the Count Basie Orchestra in May 1954. He was featured as a soloist on such well-known tunes as "April in Paris", "Shiny Stockings" and "Corner Pocket". However, his main contribution was his nearly two dozen arrangements and compositions for the Basie Orchestra, including "The Deacon", "H.R.H." (Her Royal Highness, in honor of the band's command performance in London), "Counter Block", and lesser known tracks such as "Speaking of Sounds". His hymn-like ballad "To You" was performed by the Basie band combined with the Duke Ellington Orchestra in their only recording together, and the recording Dance Along With Basie contains nearly an entire album of Jones' uncredited arrangements of standard tunes.

In 1959 Jones played Cornet on Thelonious Monk's 5 by Monk by 5 album.

Jones left the Basie Orchestra in 1963 to become a freelance arranger and studio player in New York. In 1965 he and drummer Mel Lewis formed the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. The group started with informal late-night jam sessions among New York's top studio musicians. They began performing at the Village Vanguard in February 1966, to wide acclaim, and continued with Jones in the lead for twelve years. They won a 1978 Grammy Award for their album Live in Munich.[1] Jones also taught at William Paterson College in New Jersey, which is now the site of the Thad Jones Archive, containing pencil scores and vintage photos as part of the Living Jazz Archives.

Jones' big-band arranging style was unique, especially from the standpoint of featuring dissonant voicings in a tonal context. This required the members of his big band to play correctly in tune, otherwise the dense chords he wrote would not sound correct. Minor 2nds and major 7ths are often featured in his voicings, especially when the entire band plays a long, powerful chord that some would describe as having "bite".[citation needed]

One of the more notable albums he made in this regard is Suite for Pops recorded on the A&M Records Horizon label in the early 1970s.[citation needed] It also featured the intense bebop improvisations of saxophonist Billy Harper and the high note screech playing of lead trumpet player Jon Faddis.

In October 1977, Thad suddenly moved to Copenhagen, Denmark (to the great surprise of his New York band mates), where several other American jazz musicians had gone to live. For the next six months he became the leader of The Danish Radio Big Band. He came back, still as co-leader of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, in December 1978 and continued as a leader and conductor for the Danish big band. He then left Mel Lewis and stayed in Denmark and married a Danish woman (Lis). Jones transformed the Danish Radio Big Band into one of the world's best. The result can be heard on a live-recording from the Montmartre in Copenhagen. In July 1979 Jones formed a new big band, Eclipse, with which he recorded a live album, Eclipse.[2] Several Americans were on the album: pianist Horace Parlan, baritonist Sahib Shihab, trumpeter Tim Hagans and trombonist/vocalist Richard B. Boone, along with trombonists Bjarne Thanning and Ture Larsen, trumpeter Lars Togeby, altoists Ole Thøger and Michael Hove, tenor saxophonist Bent Jædig, and Jesper Lundgaard on bass. Jones further composed for the Danish Radio Big Band and taught jazz at the Royal Danish Conservatory in Copenhagen. He studied composition formally during this period, as well as taking up the valve trombone.

In February 1985, Jones returned to the U.S. to take the leadership of the Basie Orchestra upon his former leader's death, fronting the Basie band on numerous tours, and writing arrangements for recordings and performances with vocalist Caterina Valente and the Manhattan Transfer, but had to step down due to ill health. He returned to his home in Copenhagen for the last few months of his life. He died on August 20, 1986, at Herlev Hospital, of cancer. [3]In later years his playing ability was overshadowed by his composing and arranging skills, due to lip injury.[4] His best-known composition is the standard "A Child Is Born".

At the time of his death he had a six-year-old child, also named Thad Jones (Thaddeus Joseph William Jones), with his Danish wife Lis Jones, a daughter Thedia and a son Bruce in the U.S. He was buried in Copenhagen's Vestre Kirkegård Cemetery (Western Churchyard Cemetery).[5]

Thad Jones has a street named after him in southern Copenhagen, "Thad Jones Vej" (Thad Jones Street).


As leader or co-leader

With the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra

As sideman

With Manny Albam

With Count Basie

With Bob Brookmeyer

With Kenny Burrell

With Al Cohn

With Lou Donaldson

With Kenny Drew

With Curtis Fuller

With Dexter Gordon

With Herbie Hancock

With Coleman Hawkins

With Milt Jackson

With Elvin Jones

With Hank Jones

With Yusef Lateef

With Charles Mingus

With Thelonious Monk

With James Moody

With Oliver Nelson

With Houston Person

With Buddy Rich

With Shirley Scott

With Johnny "Hammond" Smith

With Sonny Stitt

With Ben Webster

With Frank Wess

With Joe Williams


  1. LA Times, "The Envelope" awards database. (link) Retrieved April 30, 2008.
  2. A Review of Thad Jones' Eclipse Jazztimes, Edition January/February 2005, reviewed by Harvey Siders.
  3. Lis Jones
  4. Lis Jones
  5. Reuter. Award-winning poet honored by peers, Globe & Mail. August 22, 1986.
  6. Thad Jones Eclipse Almusic

External links