Mel Lewis on Playing Thad Jones’s Charts (1968)

SKF NOTE: The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra remains one of the all-time great big bands. For me it’s always interesting reading how the team worked. Here’s Mel Lewis sharing his perspective on playing Thad’s charts.

“[Thad Jones writes] the unexpected, interesting underparts, interesting jumps for the guys who are not playing lead. His placing of the notes as opposed to the rests is never obvious. You can’t anticipate his charts. He stays away from the eighth note rest-dotted quarter note routine. His whole rhythmic conception — the way everything falls — his use of space — it’s so beautiful to play from a drummer’s standpoint.

“There is so much impact in his ensembles; the voicing leaves you breathless.

“And then there are the things he does after he writes an arrangement, the changes he makes as he is rehearsing and directing it. I can say this for sure: Of the few arrangers and instrumentalists who have achieved a sound of their own, he is one.”

Source: “Thad’s Thing,” by Ira Gitler, Down Beat Feb. 22, 1968

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