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Thad Jones

Thad Jones

American jazz trumpeter
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American jazz trumpeter
Countries United States of America
Occupations Composer Conductor Trumpeter Jazz musician Bandmaster
Gender male
Birth 28 March 1923 (Pontiac, Oakland County, Michigan, U.S.A.)
Death 21 August 1986 (Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark)
Star sign Aries
The details

Thaddeus Joseph Jones (March 28, 1923 – August 20, 1986) was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, and bandleader who has been called "one of the all-time greatest jazz trumpet soloists."


Thad Jones was born in Pontiac, Michigan, on March 28, 1923, to Henry and Olivvia Jones, a musical family of 10 (an older brother was pianist Hank Jones and a younger brother was drummer Elvin Jones). A self-taught musician, Thad began performing professionally at the age of 16. He served in U.S. Army bands during World War II (1943–46).

After his military service, which included 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 to Basie's organization was nearly two dozen arrangements and compositions, which included "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 musician in New York City. 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 12 years. They won a 1978 Grammy Award for their album Live in Munich. 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".

In January 1979, Thad suddenly moved to Copenhagen, Denmark (to the great surprise of his New York bandmates), where several other U.S. jazz musicians had gone to live. There he became the leader of The Danish Radio Big Band, 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. 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, and also took up the valve trombone.

In February 1985, Jones returned to the U.S. to take over the leadership of the Count Basie Orchestra, upon his former leader's death. Thad fronted the Basie band on numerous tours, also 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, and died of cancer on August 20, 1986, at Herlev Hospital. In later years his playing ability was diminished due to lip injury, but his composing and arranging skills blossomed. His best-known composition is the standard "A Child Is Born".

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

Thad Jones has a street named after him in southern Copenhagen, "Thad Jones Vej" (Thad Jones Street). In 1993 pianist Tommy Flanagan released an album of Jones' compositions entitled Let's Play the Music of Thad Jones.


As leader or co-leader

  • The Fabulous Thad Jones (Debut, 1954)
  • Detroit-New York Junction (Blue Note, 1956)
  • The Magnificent Thad Jones (Blue Note, 1956)
  • Mad Thad (Period Records, 1957)
  • Olio (Prestige, 1957) with The Prestige All Stars – Frank Wess, Teddy Charles, Mal Waldron, Doug Watkins, Elvin Jones
  • After Hours (Prestige, 1957) with The Prestige All Stars – Frank Wess, Kenny Burrell, Mal Waldron, Paul Chambers, Art Taylor
  • Keeping Up With the Joneses: featuring The Jones Brothers – playing the music of Thad Jones and Isham Jones (MGM, 1958), with brothers Hank and Elvin Jones, as well as bassist Eddie Jones (unrelated)
  • Motor City Scene (United Artists, 1959)
  • Mean What You Say (Milestone, 1966) by the Thad Jones/Pepper Adams Quintet
  • Greetings and Salutations (Four Leaf Clover, 1977) with Mel Lewis, Jon Faddis and the Swedish Radio Jazz Group (Lennart Åberg, Arne Domnérus, Bengt Hallberg, Georg Riedel, Rune Gustafsson, ...)
  • The Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Quartet (Artist House, 1978) with Mel Lewis, Harold Danko, Rufus Reid
  • Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and UMO (RCA, 1978) with Mel Lewis and UMO (the Finnish 'New Music Orchestra')
  • Live at Montmartre (Storyville, 1978) with Idrees Sulieman, Allan Botschinsky, Jesper Thilo, NHOP.
  • Eclipse (Metronome, 1979) with Tim Hagans, Sahib Shihab, Horace Parlan, Jesper Lundgaard
  • Live at Slukefter (Metronome, 1980) with Tim Hagans, Sahib Shihab, Horace Parlan, Jesper Lundgaard

With the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra

  • Opening Night (2000) Alan Grant Presents
  • Presenting Thad Jones / Mel Lewis and the Jazz Orchestra (1966) Solid State Records
  • Presenting Joe Williams and Thad Jones / Mel Lewis, The Jazz Orchestra (1966) Solid State
  • Live at the Village Vanguard (1967) Solid State
  • The Big Band Sound of Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Featuring Miss Ruth Brown (1968) Solid State
  • Monday Night (1968) Solid State
  • Central Park North (1969) Solid State
  • Basle, 1969 (recorded 1969, released 1996) TCB Music
  • Consummation (1970) Solid State / Blue Note
  • Live in Tokyo (1974) Denon Jazz
  • Potpourri (1974) Philadelphia International
  • Thad Jones / Mel Lewis and Manuel De Sica (1974) Pausa
  • Suite for Pops (1975) Horizon / A&M
  • New Life: Dedicated to Max Gordon (1975) A&M
  • Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra With Rhoda Scott aka Rhoda Scott in New York with... (1976)
  • Live in Munich (1976) Horizon / A&M
  • It Only Happens Every Time (1977) EMI Records – with Monica Zetterlund
  • Body and Soul aka Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra in Europe (1978) West Wind Jazz – Live in Berlin
  • A Touch of Class (1978) West Wind Jazz – Live in Warsaw

As sideman

With Pepper Adams

  • Pepper Adams Plays the Compositions of Charlie Mingus (Workshop Jazz, 1964)

With Manny Albam

  • Brass on Fire (Sold State, 1966)

With Count Basie

  • Basie (Clef, 1954)
  • Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings (Clef, 1955) with Joe Williams
  • April in Paris (Verve, 1956)
  • The Greatest!! Count Basie Plays, Joe Williams Sings Standards with Joe Williams
  • Metronome All-Stars 1956 (Clef, 1956) with Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Williams
  • Hall of Fame (Verve, 1956 [1959])
  • Basie in London (Verve, 1956)
  • One O'Clock Jump (Verve, 1957) with Joe Williams and Ella Fitzgerald
  • Count Basie at Newport (Verve, 1957)
  • The Atomic Mr. Basie (Roulette, 1957) aka Basie and E=MC2
  • Basie Plays Hefti (Roulette, 1958)
  • Sing Along with Basie (Roulette, 1958) – with Joe Williams and Lambert, Hendricks & Ross
  • Basie One More Time (Roulette, 1959)
  • Breakfast Dance and Barbecue (Roulette, 1959)
  • Everyday I Have the Blues (Roulette, 1959) – with Joe Williams
  • Dance Along with Basie (Roulette, 1959)
  • Not Now, I'll Tell You When (Roulette, 1960)
  • The Count Basie Story (Roulette, 1960)
  • Kansas City Suite (Roulette, 1960)
  • The Legend (Roulette, 1961)
  • Back with Basie (Roulette, 1962)
  • Basie in Sweden (Roulette, 1962)
  • On My Way & Shoutin' Again! (Verve, 1962)
  • This Time by Basie! (Reprise, 1963)

With Bob Brookmeyer

  • Jazz Is a Kick (Mercury, 1960)
  • Back Again (Sonet, 1978)

With Kenny Burrell

  • Blues - The Common Ground (Verve, 1968)
  • Ellington Is Forever (Fantasy, 1975)
  • Ellington Is Forever Volume Two (Fantasy, 1975)

With Al Cohn

  • Four Brass One Tenor (RCA Victor, 1955)

With Lou Donaldson

  • Sassy Soul Strut (1973)

With Kenny Drew

  • Lite Flite (SteepleChase, 1977)

With Curtis Fuller

  • Imagination (Savoy, 1959)

With Dexter Gordon

  • Ca'Purange (Prestige, 1972)
  • Tangerine (Prestige, 1972)

With Herbie Hancock

  • Speak Like a Child (Blue Note, 1968)

With Coleman Hawkins

  • Coleman Hawkins and His Orchestra (Crown, 1960)
  • The Hawk Swings (Crown, 1960)

With Milt Jackson

  • For Someone I Love (Riverside, 1963)

With J. J. Johnson

  • J.J.! (RCA Victor, 1964)

With Elvin Jones

  • Elvin! (Riverside, 1961–62)
  • And Then Again (Atlantic, 1965)
  • Midnight Walk (Atlantic, 1966)
  • Mr. Jones (Blue Note, 1973)

With Hank Jones

  • Groovin' High (Muse, 1978)

With Yusef Lateef

  • Yusef Lateef's Detroit (Atlantic, 1969)

With Charles Mingus

  • The Jazz Experiments of Charlie Mingus (Bethlehem, 1954)

With Billy Mitchell

  • A Little Juicy (Smash, 1963)

With Thelonious Monk

  • 5 by Monk by 5 (1959)

With James Moody

  • Great Day (Argo, 1963)

With Oliver Nelson

  • More Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse!, 1964)
  • The Spirit of '67 with Pee Wee Russell (Impulse!, 1967)

With Houston Person

  • Houston Express (Prestige, 1970)

With Buddy Rich

  • The Wailing Buddy Rich (Norgran, 1955)

With Shirley Scott

  • For Members Only (Impulse!, 1963)
  • Roll 'Em: Shirley Scott Plays the Big Bands (Impulse!, 1966)

With Johnny "Hammond" Smith

  • Open House! (Riverside, 1963)

With Sonny Stitt

  • Sonny Stitt Plays Arrangements from the Pen of Quincy Jones (Roost, 1955)
  • Stitt Goes Latin (Roost, 1963)
  • Broadway Soul (Colpix, 1965)
  • Goin' Down Slow (Prestige, 1972)

With Ben Webster

  • Soulmates (with Joe Zawinul) (Riverside, 1963)
  • See You at the Fair (Impulse, 1964)

With Frank Wess

  • Yo Ho! Poor You, Little Me (Prestige, 1963)

With Joe Williams

  • At Newport '63 (RCA Victor, 1963)

With Phil Woods

  • Round Trip (Verve, 1969)

As arranger

With Harry James

  • New Versions Of Down Beat Favorites (MGM E4265/SE4265, 1965)
  • Our Leader! (Dot DLP 3801/DLP 25801, 1967)
  • The King James Version (Sheffield Lab LAB 3, 1976)
  • Comin' From A Good Place (Sheffield Lab LAB 6, 1977)
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