In 1981 Tenor Sax legend Illinois Jacquet pursued his career-long dream of assembling a truly great big jazz band in the tradition of his mentors, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton, bands with whom he recorded and toured in his youth. He would apply all the wisdom and experience he gleaned as their sideman, as well as from his years of leadership over his many small groups, and would include songs he made famous with his "little big band" of the 1940s. The Illinois Jacquet Big Band was filled with luminaries and young stars, but unfortunately would only record one studio album entitled "Jacquet's Got It" on Atlantic Records, in 1987.
Here we have a very early snapshot of what that band was like at the world famous Village Vanguard club in New York City. This is the third time Jacquet had played the Vanguard, and had previously broken attendance records in the club with what seemed to be a guerrilla marketing campaign in the streets of NYC in order to launch the debut of his Big Band. Some NYC Jazz fans may recall flyers being distributed all over town, especially in the Times Square area, revealing that the "missing in action" Jazz Legend Illinois Jacquet was indeed "back" with a full 15 piece Big Band on tow. Well, the promotions worked effectively, announcing that "The King" was back to take the jazz world by storm! As listeners will easily hear, this band rocked the house, and swung hard! Illinois himself is in rare form, playing soulfully and strong, ripping through all his classics with fervor and fire. These wonderful arrangements are mostly by the pen of Eddie Barefield, Wild Bill Davis, and Jimmy Mundy. Featured here within the band are veterans such as E.V. Perry, Irvin Stokes, Johnny Grimes, Kiane Zawadi, Richard Wyands, Eddie Barefield, Rudy Rutherford, and Babe Clarke; as well as young lions such as Robert Trowers, Frank Lacy, Jesse Davis and Joey Cavaseno. There as an interesting story behind this gig, as some may notice, this date being the second night at the Vanguard, during the same stint as our last release, The Jacquet Files, Volume 3. However, significantly, Norris Turney, former lead alto saxophonist with Duke Ellington is now missing from the lineup. During the March 14th date, Jacquet, a newly reformed and "clean" alcoholic, (due to the watchful eye of his common-law wife Carol Scherick) took not that altoist Turney was missing parts due to being drunk off whiskey. Noone knows what words were exchanged between Turney and Jacquet, but the next night we find that Turney has been suddenly replaced by young Cavaseno, who now has moved up to what will become a full-time position as lead alto with the band, and Cavaseno, who has now gained Jacquet's trust, brings in two new excellent young talents in the form of Jesse Davis on second alto, and trombonist Frank Lacy on trombone. This performance features some of the most raw and exciting Jacquet tenor solos on record; we hope you will enjoy!