I’m curious about how you determined that Al Porcino was playing lead on the clips in question. He is sitting on the left side of the section (looking at the band) and thus not in the lead chair. I agree with you that Al is formidable — in fact I think he’s probably my all time favorite lead player from the ’50’s and ’60’s, but it appears to me that the guy next to Al is playing lead.
For the answer, we went to a Jones-Lewis expert:
At the time, Al was the lead player. Lynn Nicholson (formerly with Maynard Ferguson) probably was playing second, Earl Gardner third, and Frank Gordon fourth (the jazz chair). All except Frank were capable of playing lead and probably did so at some point–those guys like to pass parts around the section in order to give the lead player some rest.
Al was also breaking in Earl as a lead player, and Earl went on to be the resident lead player (with T&M, and later both Mel and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra) for many years–until recently, in fact.
God, what a pleasure to wake up this morning and click on Thad Jones and Mel Lewis in Germany! Has there ever been a better big band drummer than Lewis? Most of my favorite big band records of the 60’s have something in common – Mel in the drum chair: Terry Gibbs’ Hollywood Dream Band and Gerald Wilson are two examples.
And I first became aware of Thad’s solo work when he was part of the Thelonious Monk Town Hall ’59 band, always going unexpected places in his cornet solos.
When Thad-n-Mel’s first LP came out (on Solid State), I dropped the needle on “Once Around” and in moments the hair was rising on the back of my neck! Talk about head-long momentum from bar one… and then Mel’s brief-but-extraordinary solo and fills at the end…perfecto.
I had the pleasure of emceeing a big band night at the New Haven (CT) Coliseum back in the 70s. The program was Stan Kenton’s band and Thad-n-Mel. Kenton was fine, but when Jones-Lewis came on, they set fire to the place. In his first solo, Jon Faddis entered from the stratosphere and took it up from there. And Billy Harper scorched the earth. I was goggle-eyed with amazement and delight. The writing, the spirit of that band were something to behold – just a buncha guys hangin’ out at an old funky night club in the Village on Monday nights. Thanks for reviving a flagging spirit.