Frank Wess: Magic 101 (2013)
This seven-song program, featuring a polished quartet that includes pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Winard Harper, is unique for its balladic leanings and lack of flute; the elder statesman of that instrument doesn't touch it once here. Wess, instead, sticks exclusively to his tenor, while exploring the slower side of jazz.
The program begins with a swinging "Say It Isn't So," but immediately takes a turn toward the reflective with "The Very Thought Of You," which serves as the start of the ballad run. Two duets with BarronWess' own "Pretty Lady" and a "Come Rain Or Come Shine," that's coated with a bluesy patinafollow before the full personnel returns for a slow, twilit "Easy Living."
The slow-and-sly "Blue Monk" that follows brings sturdy swing back into the picture, but its appearance is fleeting. The album ends with a solo saxophone take on Ellington's "All Too Soon." Wess works his way into the very heart and soul of the song, demonstrating a grasp on the art of musical alone time that few will ever possess.
Magic 101 is a top-to-bottom charmer; here's to hoping that Wess stay around for a while longer and continues to make music like this.
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; Kenny Barron: piano; Kenny Davis: bass; Winard Harper: drums.
Record Label: IPO Recordings