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Mel Lewis And Big Bands

Jazz Unlimited for July 24, 2016 will be “Mel Lewis and Big Bands.”  Tonight’s show is an all big band presentation of the great drummer Mel Lewis in his element.  Lewis was born in Buffalo in 1929 to immigrant parents.  He came to the West Coast with Stan Kenton in 1957 and stayed until 1963, when he moved to New York.  His drumming style was supportive of a band, rather than pushing it.  In 1965, Lewis and Thad Jones founded the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, one of the greatest big bands in jazz history.  The band played Monday nights at the Village Vanguard and toured all over he world.  When Thad Jones moved to Europe in 1978, Lewis continues on as leader of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra until his death in 1990.  The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra continues today.  This show will feature Mel Lewis with the following big bands: the Buck Clayton Orchestra, the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band, the Benny Carter Orchestra, the American Jazz Orchestra, the Gerald Wilson Orchestra, the Terry Gibbs Dream Band, the Loren Schoenberg Big Band, the Woody Herman Herd, the Jay McShann Paris All-Star Blues Band, the Bill Holman Band, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Art Pepper + 11, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra along with vocalists Ruth Brown and Joe Williams.

The Slide Show has my photographs of some of the musicians heard on this show.


This is a 1969 video of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra playing Jerome Richardson's "The Groove Merchant with Jerry Dodgion (as) Jerome Richardson (as) Eddie Daniels, Joe Henderson (ts) Pepper Adams (bar) Sir Roland Hanna (p) Richard Davis (b) Mel Lewis (d)

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Dennis Owsley has broadcast a weekly jazz show for St. Louis Public Radio since April 1983. He holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and is a retired Monsanto Senior Science Fellow and college teacher. His show, Jazz Unlimited, airs every Sunday from 9:00 p.m. to midnight. The show has the largest jazz audience in St. Louis and was named Best Jazz Radio Show in St. Louis for the years 2005-2007 and 2009 by the Riverfront Times. In celebration of his 25 years on the air, January 24, 2008 was proclaimed Dennis Owsley Day" in the City of St. Louis. He is the 2010 winner of the St. Louis Public Radio Millard S. Cohen Lifetime Achievement Award. Dennis is also a noted photographer, and his exhibit, In the Moment: Photographs of Jazz Musicians, ran from September 23, 2005 to January 21, 2006 at the Sheldon Art Gallery. He is a lifetime student of jazz history and teaches short courses on the subject. Dennis is the author of the award-winning book City of Gabriels: The History of Jazz in St. Louis 1985-1973, published in 2006.

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