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NYJAZZ Initiative: Mad About Thad

Edward Blanco By

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Before moving to Copenhagen, Denmark in 1978, iconic jazz trumpeter Thad Jones was an established New York City jazz legend best known for his co-leadership of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, which enjoyed a twelve-year residency at the renowned Village Vanguard. Mad About Thad is the debut from the NYJAZZ Initiative—a non-profit organization founded in 2008 to promote an appreciation of jazz through education and regular performances—celebrating Jones' music and keeping it alive for new audiences to enjoy.

Led by NYJAZZ Artistic Director Rob Derke—who provides the arrangements and new orchestration of some of Jones' most beautiful compositions—the band features a ten-piece light ensemble comprised of the finest musicians from New York's exciting jazz scene among them, pianist Art Hirahara, tenor master Ralph Lalama and altoist Steve Wilson.

Of Course, what would a tribute album about Jones be without a brilliant take on his most famous composition, "A Child Is Born," with spectacular solo performances from tenorist Derke and trumpeter David Smith. "Quiet Lady" is anything but, as Derke's arrangement brings out the lively voices of tenor, trombone and piano, while the very harmonic "Lady Luck" presents the best of the big band sound, with Lalama, Wilson and Smith teeing off on gritty solos.

The eight-piece set list includes the bop classic "Mean What You Say" and a couple of better-known Jones standards like "Three And One" and "Evol Deklaw Ni." The ambitious "Elusive" closes out the set without touching on such classics as "Central Park North" or "Groove Merchant" but, regardless ,completes a fine tribute to a legend whose music is timeless.

There are plenty of sane moments on Mad About Thad, a well-deserved tribute to a giant of jazz presented by the impressive NYJAZZ Initiative ensemble. Director Derke keeps the Jones legacy relative to today's modern mainstream jazz with creative new arrangements, well-presented by a stellar group of players.

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