The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
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, much critical acclaim, 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.
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.
JazzFest 54 will be held on Saturday, February 25, 2023 in Baldwin Hall on the Campus of Truman State University.
Since the chapter was founded in 1968, Upsilon Phi has hosted an annual event celebrating jazz at Truman State University. Having been been ranked one of the top collegiate jazz festivals by Down Beat magazine, the Phi Mu Alpha Jazz Festival has become one of the larger events of its kind, attracting high school and middle school bands throughout the Midwest.
Traditionally held the last weekend in February, “JazzFest” brings in nationally renowned artists every year. It includes a day of performances by high school and middle school jazz combos and big bands with a personalized clinic for each group. Our guest artist also presents a clinic and performs with Truman jazz groups on an evening concert.
The list of past guest artists reads like a who’s who of jazz luminaries. Clark Terry, Nick Brignola, John Fedchock, Danilo Pérez, John Faddis, Peter Erskine, Ethan Iverson, and Slide Hampton are just some of the great musicians who have graced JazzFest with their talent and generosity. For a complete listing of past guest artists, click here.
The men of Upsilon Phi take great pride in all the hard work required successfully put on such a large-scale festival every year. Not only does JazzFest support a rich American art form, it also helps educate aspiring young musicians.
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JazzFest Online Application