2

Frank Wess: Magic 101

Hrayr Attarian By

Sign in to view read count
Frank Wess: Magic 101 In 2007, saxophonist and flutist Frank Wess was named NEA Jazz Master, and Magic 101 amply demonstrates why. This mellow session covers six standards and a Wess original, with a candid and unadorned style that is nevertheless powerful in its apparent simplicity.

Like a wise raconteur, the 89 year-old (at the time of the recording) icon embellishes the melodies with wit and erudition. His cool, big-toned tenor weaves flowing lines in muted color around the rhythm section's languid beats and chimes on "Easy Living." Pianist Kenny Barron's nocturne-esque solo closes the tune with a subtle yet sublime fantasy.

Barron's stylings on the melancholic "Come Rain Or Come Shine" are in the spirit of older, ragtime-based players with a distinctly contemporary edge. The duet recital features Wess' deeply resonant sax intricately elaborating on the theme in a laidback ad-lib conversation with his accompanist.

Wess' energetic spontaneity on "Blue Monk" is full of humor and soul and his complex and intelligent improvisation keeps the superlative trio on its proverbial toes. Supporting Barron's precise, exquisite and stimulating pianism are bassist Kenny Davis' sophisticated swagger and drummer Winard Harper's propulsive gusto. Davis also showcases his lyrical side on the exuberant and swinging "Say It Isn't So" with a series of elegant and fluid pizzicato bars.

The sole original "Pretty Lady" is a lilting ballad with Wess stretching out with a poetic flair and wistful romanticism. In addition to being a validation of Wess' legendary compositional skills it also allows Barron to channel Harlem stride masters albeit with a refined modernity.

This delightful album closes with an unaccompanied take of pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington's "All Too Soon." Wess transforms the standard into a nostalgic, cerebral soliloquy that is crisp and evocative.

At the cusp of his tenth decade of life, Wess has not only lost none of his musical acumen, he has imbued it with a mature savior faire peppered with joyful abandon. Hopefully he will continue to produce raw and dazzling gems like this well into his 90s.

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.

Title: Magic 101 | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: IPO Recordings


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Developing Story CD/LP/Track Review Developing Story
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Lantern CD/LP/Track Review Lantern
by John Kelman
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall) CD/LP/Track Review Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)
by Phil Barnes
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Unification CD/LP/Track Review Unification
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Crossing CD/LP/Track Review Crossing
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Unit[e] CD/LP/Track Review Unit[e]
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 25, 2017
Read "Brass Tactics" CD/LP/Track Review Brass Tactics
by Budd Kopman
Published: June 28, 2016
Read "Unlimited" CD/LP/Track Review Unlimited
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 3, 2017
Read "LifeCycle" CD/LP/Track Review LifeCycle
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 23, 2017
Read "Vanheusenism: A Tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen" CD/LP/Track Review Vanheusenism: A Tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 4, 2016
Read "@etude" CD/LP/Track Review @etude
by Geno Thackara
Published: April 17, 2017
Read "Supreme" CD/LP/Track Review Supreme
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 25, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.