Frank Wess: Magic 101 (2013)
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 colleaguespianist Kenny Barron, bassist Kenny Davis, drummer Winard Harperhave 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 and Stan Getz to Ella Fitzgerald, Freddie Hubbard, Elvin Jones, James Moody 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's "Blue Monk" and his own handsome ballad "Pretty Lady" (another duet), before closing with a virtuosic solo reading of Duke Ellington'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