Bob composed "The American Express" for the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra in early December 1980. For a little perspective, this was one year after Bob wrote his classics “Ding Dong Ding,” “First Love Song,” and “Hello & Goodbye,” and one year before he wrote “Make Me Smile” and “The Nasty Dance.” Though the chart was performed regularly between those two historic periods, it wasn’t actually recorded by Mel until 1985 on 20 Years at the Village Vanguard (Atlantic Records). It's an medium-up swing chart that has solo space for soprano sax (Reed 1) and tenor sax (Reed 3), with short spots for drums, and the option to open the chart up for an optional trumpet solo (Trumpet 4). The title comes a period when Bob, Mel and Jim McNeely were touring around Europe, working with a variety of local big bands. Throughout these tours they referred to themselves as “The American Express,” so Bob had to write a piece using that title.
After years of being out of print (and before that, published with many mistakes), we are thrilled to finally make this chart available again, re-engraved and edited directly from Bob's original manuscript score, and the original parts provided by the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. This is the first time in nearly forty years that this music is available to be studied and performed as Bob originally conceived it.