3

Frank Wess: Magic 101

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Frank Wess: Magic 101 The "magic" here lies not only in the radiant music created by this stellar quartet of world-class musicians but also in the fact that its leader, Frank Wess, was a youthful eighty-nine years old when this splendid album was recorded in June 2011. Wess was once a star soloist (on tenor sax and flute) with the legendary Count Basie Orchestra, but that was back in the '50s and early '60s, when the big bands were riding high. While he has (obviously) remained active since then, his name is no longer as familiar to most jazz fans as it was when he and fellow tenor Frank Foster were lighting up Basie's saxophone section. Wess was always soft-spoken, both personally and musically, and his tenor has assumed a mellow Lester Young-like character, albeit with a slightly harder edge (and some Ben Webster on the side).

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 colleagues—pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Kenny Davis, drummer Winard Harper—have 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.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: IPO Recordings | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Ha Noi Duo CD/LP/Track Review Ha Noi Duo
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Like, Strange CD/LP/Track Review Like, Strange
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Coalesce CD/LP/Track Review Coalesce
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Il sistema periodico CD/LP/Track Review Il sistema periodico
by Nicola Negri
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Code Noir CD/LP/Track Review Code Noir
by James Nadal
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Welcome to Swingsville! CD/LP/Track Review Welcome to Swingsville!
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 26, 2017
Read "Rub Out The Word" CD/LP/Track Review Rub Out The Word
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 20, 2016
Read "Dream Maps" CD/LP/Track Review Dream Maps
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 13, 2016
Read "Sounds Of 3" CD/LP/Track Review Sounds Of 3
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 17, 2016
Read "Southern Avenue" CD/LP/Track Review Southern Avenue
by James Nadal
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "windS" CD/LP/Track Review windS
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 31, 2016
Read "Goran Ivanovic Trio" CD/LP/Track Review Goran Ivanovic Trio
by Budd Kopman
Published: May 1, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: DOT TIME RECORDS | BUT IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!