2 Recommend It!

Frank Wess: Magic 101 (2013)

By Published: | 2,740 views
Frank Wess: Magic 101 The "magic" here lies not only in the radiant music created by this stellar quartet of world-class musicians but also in the fact that its leader, Frank Wess, was a youthful eighty-nine years old when this splendid album was recorded in June 2011. Wess was once a star soloist (on tenor sax and flute) with the legendary Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
Orchestra, but that was back in the '50s and early '60s, when the big bands were riding high. While he has (obviously) remained active since then, his name is no longer as familiar to most jazz fans as it was when he and fellow tenor Frank Foster
Frank Foster
Frank Foster
1928 - 2011
saxophone
were lighting up Basie's saxophone section. Wess was always soft-spoken, both personally and musically, and his tenor has assumed a mellow Lester Young
Lester Young
Lester Young
1909 - 1959
saxophone
-like character, albeit with a slightly harder edge (and some Ben Webster
Ben Webster
Ben Webster
1909 - 1973
sax, tenor
on the side).

Granted, this is not an album for those who are partial to sparks and fireworks; as befits his advanced years, Wess prefers the gentler, more introspective temper and equable cadences of a ballad. If his colleagues—pianist Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
b.1943
piano
, bassist Kenny Davis
Kenny Davis
Kenny Davis
b.1961
bass, acoustic
, drummer Winard Harper
Winard Harper
Winard Harper
b.1962
drums
—have any problem with that, it is certainly not apparent. They go about their business with calm efficiency, capably supporting Wess at every turn and soloing adeptly whenever called upon. Barron's talents, of course, are widely known, as he has been on the scene for almost half a century and has performed and recorded with a who's who of jazz royalty from Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
and Stan Getz
Stan Getz
Stan Getz
1927 - 1991
sax, tenor
to Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
1917 - 1996
vocalist
, Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
1938 - 2008
trumpet
, Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
1927 - 2004
drums
, James Moody
James Moody
James Moody
1925 - 2010
reeds
and others too numerous to mention. He doesn't disappoint here, producing solos that are models of clarity and taste.

Wess, for his part, makes no concessions to Father Time, playing not only with warmth and intelligence but with a technical know-how that belies his imminent induction into the rather exclusive society of nonagenarians. As for the music, he stays close to the tried-and-true, starting with "Say It Isn't So" and continuing with the standards "The Very Thought of You," "Come Rain or Come Shine" (a duet with Barron) and "Easy Living," Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
's "Blue Monk" and his own handsome ballad "Pretty Lady" (another duet), before closing with a virtuosic solo reading of Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
's "All Too Soon."

If, as the saying goes, there really is no substitute for experience, Frank Wess clearly underlines the point on Magic 101, a delightful session that brings out the best in all its partners.


Track Listing: Say It Isn’t So; The Very Thought of You; Pretty Lady; Come Rain or Come Shine; Easy Living; Blue Monk; All Too Soon.

Personnel: Frank Wess: tenor saxophone, flute; Kenny Barron: piano; Kenny Davis: bass; Winard Harper: drums.

Record Label: IPO Recordings

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


comments powered by Disqus

Weekly Giveaways

Roscoe Mitchell

Roscoe Mitchell

About | Enter

Peter Lerner

Peter Lerner

About | Enter

Jamie Saft

Jamie Saft

About | Enter

Sun Trio

Sun Trio

About | Enter

Sponsor: Nonesuch Records