Monday, November 18, 2013
Frank Wess: Magic 101
Most outlets, Plastic Sax included, did a poor job of acknowledging the passing of Frank Wess. The NEA Jazz Master died on October 30. A meager post at an obscure jazz blog can't begin to do Wess justice, of course, but it's better than nothing.
Wess, a key component of the version of the Count Basie Orchestra that's most fondly remembered today, was born in Kansas City in 1922. His flute solo begins at the 1:25 mark of the embedded video.
As I noted in a 2011 entry, Wess remained active. Rather than listing a few of the hundreds of dates on which Wess applied his unflagging sense of swing, I'll focus on his spectacular new album Magic 101.
Recorded in 2011 and released in June, Wess is backed by pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Winard Harper on the ballad-heavy recording. An elegant take on "Easy Living" is among the tracks that make my knees buckle.
Wess' unaccompanied version of "All Too Soon" closes the album. Hauntingly beautiful and unspeakably poignant, it serves as an apt summation of Wess' singular contribution.