Thad Jones Biography

Thaddeus Joseph Jones, 28 March 1923, Pontiac, Michigan, USA, d. 20 August 1986, Copenhagen, Denmark. A self-taught trumpet player, Jones began playing with a band led by his older brother, Hank Jones, in his early teens. He developed his technique and advanced his musical knowledge during military service and in several dance bands. In the early 50s he played in a band led by Billy Mitchell, which also included his younger brother, Elvin Jones. In 1954 Thad was with Charles Mingus; the same year he also joined Count Basie, an engagement that lasted until 1963. In the mid-60s Jones formed The Jazz Orchestra, which he co-led with Mel Lewis. During this period he extended his writing activities, composing and arranging the bulk of this remarkable band’s outstanding book. In 1979 Jones quit The Jazz Orchestra and emigrated to Denmark, where he wrote for and performed with the Danish Radio Big Band, often playing valve trombone (which he had taken up following a lip injury). He also appeared with the Swedish Radio Big Band and formed a band of his own, Eclipse. In 1985 he took on the leadership of the Count Basie Orchestra, leaving in February the following year, some six months before his death.

A lyrical player, especially on the slightly mellower flügelhorn, Jones was a superbly inventive, bebop-influenced soloist with a crisp tone. Despite such gifts, however, Jones’ major contribution to jazz was his extensive library of compositions and arrangements for big bands. In these he ranged widely, experimenting with meters not usually adopted by jazz orchestras, and comfortably incorporating various popular fads and fancies into jazz with a skill that ensured their survival long after fashions had changed.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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