Frank Wess, a first-class multi-reedman, arranger, composer and notable soloist in Count Basie’s great 50s big band, is the protagonist of this special compilation of his complete 1954 sessions for Commodore, his first as a leader. Inspired by both Ben Webster and, particularly, Lester Young, he shows in these swinging New York quintet-sextet recordings his light yet full-bodied sound, backed by such exceptional jazzmen as Henry Coker, Urbie Green, Joe Wilder and Oscar Pettiford. As a bonus, Bitty Ditty and Elusive, two equally engaging tracks he recorded for Debut the same year, under the leadership of trumpeter Thad Jones, are included. Especially noteworthy on these tunes—and on the session as a whole—is his great solo work on tenor saxophone.
An all-flute album from Frank Wess – a great small combo date that really gets at the lyrical modes in Frank's style! Wess had been playing flute on record for over 20 years by the time of this early 80s date – but there's a really special feeling to the album that brings out some of Frank's more sensitive, personal qualities – a mode that's quite free from the Basie-tinged work of his youth, and awash with wonderful colors and tones that really show a great deal of development on his instrument.
In Memoriam. RIP Mr.Wess. There’s no Count Basie here, but his spirit pervades these relaxed, swinging sessions, not least because five Basie alumni – Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Benny Powell, Henry Coker and Eddie Jones – splendidly lead the way. Aided by guitarist Kenny Burrell and drummer Kenny Clarke, with arrangements that offer plenty of space for soloists, this is a typically accomplished, unpretentious Basie-type small group blowing session. The piano-less rhythm section is buttressed by the solid bass of Eddie Jones and a cooking Kenny Clarke, while Kenny Burrell proves a fine comper and a down-home blues player.
While Hawkins represents the beginnings and one of the summits of jazz tenor saxophone, Frank Wess slips in the back door as one of the finest of the many second-generation players coming out of both Bean and Lester Young's lineage. Taking off from his groundbreaking work with Fletcher Henderson in the '20s and his pinnacle "Body and Soul" solo from 1939, Hawkins spent a good deal of the '40s rubbing shoulders with bebop youngsters and forward-looking swing players on a variety of small-combo recordings…
It's the fall of 1957, and John Coltrane finds himself in another session with overtones of Kansas City, thanks to the inclusion of Basie alumni Frank Wess and Paul Quinichette. WHEELIN' & DEALIN' reprises the Mal Waldron/Art Taylor rhythm section (with Doug Watkins on bass instead of Paul Chambers), only with a bit more bite and jet propulsion than on Trane's other Prestige all-star dates. The chemistry between Coltrane, Wess and Quinichette makes WHEELIN' & DEALIN' a particular joy. Listen to the coquettish "Salt Peanuts" vamp Trane and Quinichette introduce behind Wess' percolating flute on "Things Ain't What They Used To Be," and how modern Wess' conception of this instrument is (rarely has Wess gotten the credit he deserves for his total command of the flute, and for popularizing it in a jazz setting).
The title song is a lively, swinging piece. Wess leads on tenor sax, backed by a five-piece horn section. Drummer Winard Harper plays a standard rhythm on the hi-hat, but also mixes in some adept splash-and-crash cymbal work, as well as some rim shots. Scott Robinson contributes a baritone sax solo while bassist Peter Washington comes through here and there.