Frank Wess: The Message of Swing
FW: Yeah, that's my man. We talk all the time on the phone now. We're damn near an album. Frank hasn't played for a couple of years now, because he had a stroke. But he still writes everyday. He's done some work with the Basie Orchestra and he also did a jazz thing for the Detroit Symphony. Yeah, he's been writing a lot.
AAJ: When you two were on the bandstand together, blowing your respective horns, there seemed to be a playful dynamic between you, at times almost competitive. Was that the case?
FW: No, we were never competitive. We appreciated each other, but it wasn't really competition. Friendly competition, maybe.
AAJ: One of the most important things for Basie was swing. How important is it to you?
FW: It's important for anybody who wants to play jazz. I mean all that other stuff, you can forget it. If you can't tap your foot or dance to it, you may as well be driving a cab. That's what it's all about. When I do clinics, I have the individual instruments play by themselves and I want them to make me dancemake me want to dance, you know. I don't want them to depend on the rhythm section or somebody else for that swing.
AAJ: Do you still practice every day?
FW: Yeah. You have to. I mean, if you're going to play, you have to. It's like physical exerciseif you miss a day, you feel it. If you miss two days, everybody knows it.
AAJ: Do you think you'll ever retire?
FW: Retire? To what? I've never done anything else in my life. I never had a 9 to 5, or none of thatI wouldn't even know where to start. So you just do what you know how to do.
Frank WessFlutes and Reeds (Savoy, 1955)
Count BasieApril in Paris (Verve, 1955)
Count BasieAnd the Kansas City Seven (MCA-Impulse, 1962)
New York Jazz QuartetBlues for Sarka (Enja-Inner City, 1978)
Frank WessSurprise! Surprise! (Chiaroscuro, 1996)
One MoreMusic of Thad Jones (IPO Recordings, 2005)