This absolute classic album was just remastered by Blue Note in 2002, and it sounds great. Thad Jones/Mel Lewis was the big band of the 1970s (they were around much before that, but were really carrying the torch in the ’70s), with powerhouse talent like Mrvin Stamm, Snooky Young, Jimmy Knepper, Jerome Richardson, Roland Hanna, Richard Davis, and Pepper Adams on board. Jones was at his writing and arranging peak as well, and churned out wonderful stuff like “Dedication”, “Tiptoe”, “A Child Is Born”, “Us”, and “Consummation.”
Jones has not earned his full due as a composer, arranger, and bandleader, not to mention his playing, which was top-notch. Here he contributes eight fantastic compositions, all of which he arranged as well. “Dedication” gets the album off to a nice start with a Richard Davis bass intro into the melody, stated by Jones on flugelhorn. Jerome Richardson and Snooky Young give powerful solo turns. “It Only Happens Every Time” is a boss a nova with gorgous woodwinds. The melody statement is by Richardson on flute and Marvin Stamm on muted trumpet. The marvelous Roland Hanna takes a superb piano solo. One of the things that really set the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis band apart is their advanced use of dynamics. They could be soft as a whisper one moment, then a powerhouse Basie-styled shouting band the next, all executed with perfect control. Its really the way big bands were meant to sound.
The classic “A Child Is Born” demonstrates the sheer beauty of Jones’s flugelhorn playing. As Mel Lewis commented: “I don’t know anyone who can play a ballad prettier than Thad can. His tone and feeling for something beautiful is beyond imagination.” Not much else can be said about this tune, or needs to be. “Us” is an ensemble piece all the way, intricate and interlocking, again the perfect example of a large ensemble. Lewis drives the band straight through to the strong ending with some of the best big band drumming there is.
There are a couple of Thad Jones/Mel Lewis CDs available these days, but much of the band’s fantastic output is currently available. Thanks to Blue Note for putting this, one of the best, out there. You’ve absolutely got to have this if you care for big band music at all.