3

Frank Wess: Magic 201

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
Frank Wess: Magic 201
What a wonderful coda on an incredible life and career. Saxophonist/Flautist Frank Wess' final recordings—the critically acclaimed Magic 101 (IPO, 2013) and this follow-up, recorded two months after that album—speak to his brilliance and clarity as a melody maker and improviser. His wisdom and elegance come through in every note on both recordings.

The titles of both albums rightly mark them as companion pieces and close relatives, so here's how they stack up side-by-side: Both albums favor ballads, highlight the easy rapport between Wess and pianist Kenny Barron, and focus on Wess' tenor work; his flute remains untouched on the first album and is only used once here, on a haunting solo rendition of "The Summer Knows." The first of the two efforts was a quartet date that pared things down in a few places and this one is a quintet date that does the same. Guitarist Russell Malone is the new ingredient here, bassist Rufus Reid now occupies the spot that belonged to Kenny Davis on Magic 101, and Barron and drummer Winard Harper are along for both rides. That's it in a nutshell.

In the end, if keeping a scorecard, Magic 101 would win out, mostly on the strength of Wess' own solo statements. But scorecards are for baseball, not jazz, and stacking these records side-by-side undercuts the importance of Magic 201; it proves to be a fine record when viewed on its own.

Wess starts off with a comfy-and-classic swinger ("It Could Happen To You") but quickly pulls things back and begins to explore the ins-and-outs of ballads. Five of the eight tracks on the album fall under that heading, with "After Paris," the aforementioned "The Summer Knows" and his own "If You Can't Call, Don't Come" proving to be the best of the bunch. The remaining tracks speak to his easy going relationship with the blues ("Blues For Ruby") and his ability to glide over a buoyant- and-solid walking bass line ("If It's The Last Thing I Do").

Getting what you expected is often seen as anti-climactic but that's not the case with Magic 201; getting what you expected here—from the late, great Frank Wess—is getting a musical gift from above.

Track Listing

It Could Happen to You; A Cottage for Sale; After Paris; The Summer Knows; Embraceable You; Blues for Ruby; If You Can't Call, Don't Come; If It's the Last Thing I Do.

Personnel

Frank Wess: tenor saxophone, flute; Kenny Barron: piano; Russell Malone: guitar; Rufus Reid: bass; Winard Harper: drums.

Album information

Title: Magic 201 | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: IPO Recordings

Post a comment about this album

Tags

View events near New York City
Jazz Near New York City
Events Guide | Venue Guide | Get App | More...

Shop Amazon

More

Read Rhythm City
Rhythm City
Ptah Williams, Larry Kornfeld, Rob Silverman
Read Stringers & Struts
Stringers & Struts
Rempis/Parker/Flaten/Cunningham
Read Live In Maui
Live In Maui
Jimi Hendrix Experience

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.