Make Me Smile & Other New Works by Bob Brookmeyer

There comes a time when an artist just has to sit down and say, “It’s my turn.” So it’s my time to say something and I couldn’t be happier to be able to express my feelings about this band and our music. When I took over sole leadership of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra after Thad left for Denmark at the end of our wonderful thirteen years together, it was evident that we were going to have to find a new sound, and be better, too.

I think we have done just that with this album. To have Bob Brookmeyer as our music director was the best thing that could have happened to us. I think he is one of the most creative composers, arrangers and improvisers in the world. Our lives have been intertwined for over 32 years and I think we are into the best future any two musicians can envision. Years ago we began recording in this new direction and we received a Grammy award nomination.

Ever since, Bob has been composing for the band and rehearsing us in a way that brings out the best in everyone. As Bob says, “We are concerned with the future through the past. In short—first we swing, then we look ahead, basing our innovations upon our experiences. We have many joyous roads to travel and are, I think, contributing to the necessary development of orchestral jazz music.”

He and I are very proud of all the members of this jazz Orchestra. We have, to start, an excellent rhythm team in pianist Jim McNeely and bassist Marc Johnson. I love playing with them.

Band veterans Dick Oatts, John Mosca and Earl Gardner work together with such love and respect for each other that is followed happily by their section mates. What emerges is truly unique. Listen to the way this band feels rhythm. And that’s the way they are with each other. A real music family. The addition of Stephanie Fauber on French horn gave us even more color.

When we planned to make this album we were going to use a studio situation, but then heard the results of how jay Yampolsky, who worked at the club, had been testing his recording equipment on us there. I flipped over the sound so we went to Max Gordon, our beloved boss at the Village Vanguard and asked him for a week so we could put on this concert in our very favorite playroom.

This album continues to develop one of the luxuries of the Ellington and Kenton bands: Writing around special soloists. Bob knows each artist so well you can hear how much each composition suits the man. Dick Oatts, Joe Lovano, Tom Harrell and Jim McNeely are destined for jazz greatness and I know this album will help them. You’ll meet some others on future recordings. Oh yeah, on the last track, “Goodbye World” the two newcomers, Brookmeyer and Lewis, are showing a little of what they’ve been learning from the young folks.

I think we are saying something new and good and healthy. We thank you for listening, and while the music in this album is quite serious, we hope it will “make you smile.”

Mel Lewis
Make Me SmileListen!
The Nasty DanceListen!
McNeely's PieceListen!
My Funny ValentineListen!
Goodbye WorldListen!

Bob Brookmeyer

Dick Oatts
Kenneth Garrett
Joe Lovano
Gary Pribek
Gary Smulyan

Earl Gardner
Joe Mosello
John Marshall
Tom Harrell

John Mosca
Ed Neumeister
Douglass Purviance
Earl McIntyre

Stephanie Fauber

Jim McNeely, piano
Marc Johnson, bass
Mel Lewis, drums
Percussion, the entire orchestra