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The Five Plus Six jazz ensemble is, from left, Keith Brown (piano), Taylor Coker (bass), Vance Thompson (trumpet), Nolan Nevels (drums), Greg Tardy (tenor sax), Joe Jordan (trumpet), Michael Wyatt (trumpet), Jamel Mitchell (alto sax), Tylar Bullion (trombone), Sean Copeland (trombone) and David King (baritone sax).

If you go

• What: Duke, Monk and Dolly: Big Band Jazz From Five Plus Six.

• When: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 14.

• Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.

• Admission: $15.

• Phone: 423-624-5347.

• Venue website:

• Artist website:


• Vance Thompson (trumpet)

• Greg Tardy (tenor saxophone)

• David King (baritone saxophone)

• Michael Wyatt (trumpet)

• Tylar Bullion (trombone)

• Sean Copeland (trombone)

• Jamel Mitchell (saxophone)

• Joe Jordan (trumpet)

• Keith Brown (piano)

• Taylor Coker (bass)

• Nolan Nevels (drums)

Just call him Mr. Goldilocks.

In early 2013, Knoxville-based jazz trumpeter and arranger Vance Thompson began a new project that combined the grandiosity of a big band with the improvisational nimbleness of smaller groups.

The 11-member ensemble, Five Plus Six, is small enough to be musically flexible and big enough to demand attention. In short, he says, it's just right.

"It's kind of the best of both worlds," Thompson says. "It allows us the space to still function as improvising soloists, but with the additional horns, it also allows me to utilize my arranging skills to make the arrangements a little grander and a little bigger and more fleshed-out than you can achieve with just a small group."

The group's nucleus is composed of Thompson, Greg Tardy (saxophone), Keith Brown (piano), Taylor Coker (bass) and Nolan Nevels (drums). In addition to beefing up this core lineup, Five Plus Six also is designed to offer playing opportunities for young jazz musicians outside the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, which Thompson has directed since its inception in 1999.

The "Plus Six" component of the group refers to a half-dozen younger members, many of whom are current students or recent graduates of the University of Tennessee jazz program.

"All the young guys in the band are younger than me, but they're definitely mature players," Thompson says. "They've all studied with guys in the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, and they're now looking for opportunities to work their trade."

On Friday, Nov. 14, Five Plus Six will perform at Barking Legs Theater. The evening's set will be drawn from the band's debut CD, "Such Sweet Thunder," to be released Jan. 6.

The nine-track project includes a collection of rearranged works by jazz stalwarts Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington. In addition to these reworked classics, the album includes a couple of curveballs, including a jazzed-up Appalachian folk song, "He's Gone Away," and a cover of Dolly Parton's "Little Sparrow."

The addition of Parton's song was inspired by another cover of the tune by New York soul singer Bettye LaVette, who included the song on her 2005 album, "I've Got My Own Hell To Raise." Thompson says he was drawn to the piece for its beauty and stylistic pliability. He arranged it for the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra and later adapted it for his and Tardy's quintet.

"You can go many different directions with it," he says. "I knew I wanted to include it because it sounds unique and the fact that Dolly Parton wrote it and she isn't normally covered in jazz circles."

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.


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