Music: Whoops of Joy

Squeezing the 17 members of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis big band onto the tablecloth-size stage of Manhattan's Village Vanguard is like trying to wedge the master singers of Nuremberg into Rodolfo's garret hole in Paris. The jam requires the four trumpeters to stand against the rear wall all night long. If he is not careful, a sax player can easily get a shot in the ear from a sliding trombone.

But that is not the real reason why the members of this band pay one another close attention. Their group is not just the only...

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