Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

“The band changed jazz. They started a whole new thing with that gig and paved the way for many others. For my money, the band is still the best large jazz ensemble in the world. It’s an unbeatable combination of elements that nobody else can touch. It’s an unparalleled achievement.”
– Bill Kirchner, author, educator and jazz historian

“The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra holds a very important place in the history of music. It’s picked up where Thad and Mel left off, while maintaining a connection to that tradition. I feel like what the VJO is doing is really plugged into what came before and, as a result, has been able to go well beyond that.”
– Bob Mintzer, saxophonist, composer and bandleader

“The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra is the most important big band in modern jazz and the influence of its repertoire on jazz composition is unmatched.”
– Dave Lisik, jazz composer and co-author of “50 Years at the Village Vanguard: Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra”

Vanguard Jazz Orchestra began its life as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra in 1966.

The world-famous Village Vanguard jazz club in New York City booked the newly formed band for three Monday nights that February. Those were wildly successful and the engagement was extended indefinitely. The Village Vanguard’s owner, Max Gordon, told Mel Lewis, “We’ll keep it going until it tapers off.”

Over half a century and more than 2700 Monday nights later, it still hasn’t. The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra stands apart from all other modern ensembles of its kind and is still as strong and vital as ever.

From the very beginning, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra captivated the jazz world with the fresh sound of Jones’ writing, Lewis’ incredible command of the ensemble and an entirely new approach to the big band genre. The band emphasized a “small group within the big band” concept, allowing its many top-flight jazz soloists to stretch out and play much longer than was previously typical in large ensembles.

Jones and Lewis enjoyed a very fruitful thirteen-year partnership, which produced fifteen albums, a number of world tours and a wealth of compositions that have become standard big band fare, still delighting audiences and challenging even the world’s best jazz musicians to this day.

When Jones unexpectedly moved to Denmark in 1979, Lewis kept the band together, changed its name and became the sole leader. The Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra continued to perform the music of Thad Jones, but the legendary Bob Brookmeyer was recruited as musical director and his groundbreaking compositions provided an entirely new sonic direction for the band. Several other composers contributed new music to the book (including Bob Mintzer and Jim McNeely) and, under Lewis’ leadership, the band added another nine albums to its credits.

After Lewis passed away in 1990, the band became the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. With Jim McNeely as its composer in residence since 1995, the VJO has continued to honor the legacy established by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, but all the while continuing to push the boundaries of the big band idiom.

Over half of the albums (17 out of 32) in the band’s robust discography have been nominated for Grammys, with two of them winning the coveted award. In addition, the orchestra has performed on five continents and has won eleven “Best Big Band” awards in the DownBeat magazine Readers and Critics Polls.

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra’s regular Monday night gig at the Village Vanguard is the longest-running steady engagement in the history of jazz.

MEMBERS OF THE VANGUARD JAZZ ORCHESTRA:

SAXOPHONES:

DICK OATTS, BILLY DREWES, RICH PERRY, RALPH LALAMA, GARY SMULYAN

TRUMPETS:

NICK MARCHIONE, JOHN CHUDOBA, TERELL STAFFORD, SCOTT WENDHOLT

TROMBONES:

MARSHALL GILKES, JASON JACKSON, DION TUCKER, DOUGLAS PURVIANCE

RHYTHM SECTION:

ADAM BIRNBAUM, piano

DAVID WONG, bass

JOHN RILEY, drums

COMPOSER IN RESIDENCE: JIM McNEELY

Walter Smith III

August 5, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA
August 25, 2019 Da Camera
Houston, TX, USA

Steve Lehman Trio // "The People I Love" US Tour

September 19, 2019 Kuumbwa Jazz Center
Santa Cruz, CA, USA
September 20, 2019 SFJAZZ Center
San Francisco, CA, USA
September 21, 2019 Constellation
Chicago, IL, USA
September 22, 2019 Bop Stop
Cleveland, OH, USA
September 24, 2019 – September 25, 2019 Jazz Standard
New York, NY, USA
September 26, 2019 Regatta Bar
Boston, MA, USA

The Jazz Gallery All-Stars

September 1, 2020 – October 18, 2020 AVAIL Worldwide

Tigran Hamasyan

April 30, 2020 Lawrence University
Appleton, WI, USA

Theo Croker 'Star People Nation'

September 14, 2019 Lodge Room
Los Angeles, CA, USA
September 16, 2019 Springfield Technical Community College
Springfield, MA, USA
September 20, 2019 – September 21, 2019 Blue LLama
Ann Arbor, MI, USA
September 23, 2019 Dizzy's Club (Big Brother Big Band)
New York, NY, USA
October 22, 2019 CBE
Cologne, Germany
October 27, 2019 Grillo Theater
Essen, Germany
November 1, 2019 The Loft, UCSD
San Diego, CA, USA

Gerald Clayton Quartet US Tour

September 23, 2019 – September 24, 2019 Lied Center (Solo)
Lawrence, KS, USA
September 27, 2019 Monterey Jazz Festival
Monterey, CA, USA
September 28, 2019 – September 29, 2019 Moss Theatre
Los Angeles, CA, USA
October 1, 2019 Musical Instrument Museum
Phoenix, AZ, USA
October 3, 2019 The Outpost
Albuquerque, NM, USA
October 4, 2019 Santa Fe Music Collective
Santa Fe, NM, USA
October 6, 2019 Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society
Half Moon Bay, CA, USA
October 7, 2019 University of Nevada
Reno, NV, USA
October 8, 2019 The Triple Door
Seattle, WA, USA
October 10, 2019 – October 13, 2019 Jazz Standard
New York, NY, USA
October 16, 2019 Blues Alley
Washington, DC, USA
October 19, 2019 The Factory at Franklin
Franklin, TN, USA
November 20, 2019 Herb Alpert Music Center (Solo)
Los Angeles, CA, USA

Buika

August 1, 2019 Patio Theater
Chicago, IL, USA
August 3, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA

JD Allen

January 25, 2020 Jefferson Center
Roanoke , VA, USA

New Orleans Jazz Orchestra

September 1, 2019 Detroit Jazz Festival
Detroit, MI, USA
December 13, 2019 – December 14, 2019 JALC with René Marie
New York, NY, USA

Marcus Lewis Big Band

September 3, 2019 Des Moines Jazz Festival
Des Moines, IA, USA

Camila Meza & The Nectar Orchestra

August 4, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA
September 14, 2019 Lake George Jazz Festival
Lake George, NY, USA
September 28, 2019 Tempe Arts Center
Tempe, AZ, USA
October 12, 2019 Mondriaan Jazz Festival
The Hague, Netherlands
November 8, 2019 SFJAZZ
San Francisco, CA, USA
November 11, 2019 Arcata Playhouse
Arcata, CA, USA
November 15, 2019 – November 16, 2019 Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts
Los Angeles, CA, USA

Marcus Strickland 'Twi-Life'

August 4, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA

Joel Ross 'Good Vibes' 'Kingmaker' Release Tour

August 3, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA
August 30, 2019 Chicago Jazz Festival
Chicago, IL, USA
September 13, 2019 White Plains Jazz Festival
White Plains, NY, USA
October 17, 2019 Kummbwa Jazz Center
Santa Cruz, CA, USA
October 18, 2019 Vashon Center for the Arts
Vashon, WA, USA
October 19, 2019 Earshot Jazz Festival
Seattle, WA, USA
October 20, 2019 Holocene
Portland, OR, USA
October 21, 2019 Brubeck Institute
Stockton, CA, USA
October 25, 2019 BRIC Jazz Festival
Brooklyn, NY, USA
November 21, 2019 Annenberg Center
Philadelphia, PA, USA
December 29, 2019 – January 1, 2020 Umbria Winter Jazz Festival
Umbria, Italy

Sullivan Fortner Trio

July 20, 2019 – July 21, 2019 Cola Jazz Camp
Columbia, SC, USA
July 28, 2019 Woods Hole Jazz (Solo Piano)
Falmouth, MA, USA
September 19, 2019 Temple University
Philadelphia, PA, USA
September 22, 2019 – September 23, 2019 Boise Jazz Society
Boise , ID, USA
October 1, 2019 Exuberance
Philadelphia, PA, USA
October 3, 2019 – October 6, 2019 Jazz Standard
New York, NY, USA
October 26, 2019 Clermont-Ferrand
Clarmont-Ferrand, France
November 18, 2019 – November 19, 2019 Paris Philharmonie
Paris, France
December 29, 2019 – January 1, 2020 Umbria Winter Residency
Umbria, Italy
Close Menu