Frank Wess has long been one of the most underrated flautists in jazz, but it's his primary instrument on this CD reissue of a Moodsville LP recorded in 1960. With fine accompaniment by piano master Tommy Flanagan, bassist Eddie Jones and drummer Bobby Donaldson, the leader's lyrical chops are evident in Alec Wilder's rarely performed ballad "It's So Peaceful in the Country." The light Latin setting of "Star Eyes" initially spotlights Flanagan's elegant piano, with the rhythm switching gears as Wess works his magic on flute. Flanagan alone introduces the dreamy interpretation of "But Beautiful," while Wess will melt any heart with his gorgeous flute solo.
The album, recorded for Savoy in July 1956, paired Wess on flute with four trombonists - Jimmy Cleveland, Henry Coker, Benny Powell and Bill Hughes. They were backed by Ronnell Bright (p), Freddie Green (g), Eddie Jones (b) and Kenny Clarke (d). The gorgeous arrangements were by Frank Foster. At the time, Wess, Foster, Coker, Powell, Hughes, Green and Jones were all members of Count Basie's New Testament band while Ronnell Bright would periodically sub for Basie into the 1980s. In 1956, to hold his band together, Basie let his musicians make extra money recording as leaders during the band's down time…
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.