323

Frank Wess: The Long Road

Derek Taylor By

Sign in to view read count
Frank Wess was a busy man in the 1960s. Along with juggling roles as Count Basie’s chief tenor and sessions as a sideman he was also fortunate enough to secure plentiful dates as a leader. In each setting his tenor was allowed room to move, but it was on his own gigs where his powers were put to most expansive use. The two albums combined on this disc highlight two Wess-fronted ensembles: a large eight-piece unit colored with a Latin hue compliments of Barretto’s congas, Johnson’s drums and an acknowledged timbales player, and forward-thinking swing quintet populated by a few of his peers with the Basie Band.

On the first album Oliver Nelson’s authoritative tenor joins Wess along with the lesser known Aarons and Barrow in the front line. The horns are afforded the majority of solo space, and while they share the same instrument Nelson’s coarser toned reed is easily distinguishable from the leader’s more sophisticated sound. Nelson also handles the arrangements and his charts allow an unusual amount of space for the augmented rhythm section. Even the old pop standard “Blue Skies” is saturated with some spicy percussion breaks. Conversely “Summer Frost” flirts with sentimental exotica and never seems to rise beyond a feathery bathos, but the band rekindles a forward momentum on a zesty reading of “Dancing In the Dark.”

Date number two settles into a blues-tinged bag and gives Wess added space for his well-lauded flute. He favors the instrument on the final five tracks making for an interesting match with Jones muted brass on pieces like “Little Me.” Haynes works his usual rhythmic magic behind his kit while Mahones and Catlett keep things cantering from their respective corners. Haynes commands attention on “Yo-Ho” turning in some fantastic breaks between Jones muted choruses while Mahones is at the lyrical center of “Poor You.” Overall these are an enjoyable pair of outings from a player who cut many respectable, if not instantly classic sessions during the 60s. The fact that Wess recorded so frequently and came away with a catalog that still withstands the test of time is testament both to his talent and his desire to spread his music to as many ears as possible. Listeners with tastes favoring successful marriages of bop and swing will uncover much to their liking on this generously packed collection.


Title: The Long Road | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Original Jazz Classics


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Float Upstream CD/LP/Track Review Float Upstream
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Extremophile CD/LP/Track Review Extremophile
by John Sharpe
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Setembro CD/LP/Track Review Setembro
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 26, 2017
Read The Source CD/LP/Track Review The Source
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Aqustico vol 2 CD/LP/Track Review Aqustico vol 2
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 25, 2017
Read Lattice CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 25, 2017
Read "Live at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival / Matt Savage: Piano Voyages" CD/LP/Track Review Live at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival /...
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 29, 2016
Read "Asian Fields Variations" CD/LP/Track Review Asian Fields Variations
by John Kelman
Published: May 21, 2017
Read "Rediscovered Ellington" CD/LP/Track Review Rediscovered Ellington
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 20, 2017
Read "Happy Juice" CD/LP/Track Review Happy Juice
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 4, 2017
Read "Coalesce" CD/LP/Track Review Coalesce
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: March 27, 2017
Read "Big Wheel Live" CD/LP/Track Review Big Wheel Live
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 17, 2016

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY IT  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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