Frank Wess – Magic 101 – IPO Recordings

by | Jun 12, 2013 | Jazz CD Reviews

Frank Wess – Magic 101 – IPO Recordings IPOC1023, 53:09 *****:

(Frank Wess, tenor sax; Kenny Barron, piano; Kenny Davis, bass; Winard Harper, drums)

At age 91, Frank Wess is a national jazz treasure. Among the very last of the great Count Basie living band members from the Count’s bands of the 1950s and 1960s, listening to Frank Wess play saxophone is like a long day of work being over, and kicking back in your favorite easy chair with a cold cool one.  A refreshing breeze revitalizes you, making all in the world right again.

On Wess’ latest CD, Magic 101, recorded in 2011, and just released by IPO, Frank plays familiar tunes with his sensuous tone that brings to mind a cross between Lester Young and Johnny Hodges. He breaks no new ground, yet there is no need to, when you do all the right things in all the right ways. The only tease is that even though a liner picture in the cardboard foldout jewel case includes a picture of Wess playing the flute, we don’t get the pleasure of hearing Frank demonstrate his flute mastery at all. (Maybe they will save that for Magic 102.)

In seven decades on the bandstand, Wess has done it all. Going back to Billy Eckstine in the mid ’40s, all the way to sitting in with Toshiko Akiyoshi’s big band, Wess is a master musician and hearing him play so well at this stage of his life brings hope and happiness to any fan of classic jazz.

Nicknamed “Magic” by his contemporaries, Wess slides into “The Very Thought of You,” “Come Rain and Come Shine,” and “Easy Living” with silky smooth emoting. With a rhythm section of Kenny Barron, Kenny Davis, and one of my favorite drummers, Winard Harper, along for the journey, not a note is wasted, the use of time masterfully shown, and Wess weaves his life experience into creating a blissful mood. The ease in which Wess crafts phrases, gliding with ease through the changes, can only be gained with the passing of years, playing and learning from the jazz giants.

Our only task is an easy one. Put in the CD and take a course of Magic 101. All you need is a nice sound system, and two feet to kick up while Frank Wess plays his tenor sax with aural mastery. Buy this CD, and for nearly an hour, life is good…

TrackList: Say It Ain’t So, The Very Thought of You, Pretty Lady, Come Rain or Come Shine, Easy Living, Blue Monk, All Too Soon

—Jeff Krow

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