Frank Wess: The Message of Swing
AAJ: During those years with the Basie Orchestra, you and Frank Foster developed a kinship that has carried on into the present day.
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)