RIP Frank Wess (1922-2013)

From Kansas City, a member of the Basie, Eckstine and Clark Terry bands, an NEA Jazz Master in 2007, the great tenor saxophoonist Frank Wess died yesterday.

More on Peter Hum’s jazzblog.ca site. In sadness.

UPDATE: Tribute from Frank Griffith

Frank Wess was the classic NYC jobbing reed player who put put his hand to soprano, alto and tenor saxes, clarinet as well as a more than distinctive flute soloist. He also composed and arranged impressively getting his start while with Count Basie’s Orchestra in the late 1950s. His 1960 opus, Segue in C, stands out with its Kansas City style unison theme (for muted trumpet and trombone and flute) which then develops tremendously with solos building the depth of the beat. A heroic and swaggering shout section ensues with a full arsenal of brass and sparkling saxes to later wind down to the unison theme.

Frank’s “bedroom alto” swooning away on “Laura” coupled with his flute rhapsodisms on “How Insensitive” (both arranged by Slide Hampton) were highlights for me on Dexter Gordon’s seminal 1977 Columbia LP “Sophisticated Giant”.

I worked with Frank several times in New York City in the 1990s- with the Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band as well as John Pizzarelli’s “All Of Me” CD. He was a kind and encouraging fellow with no airs about him. Quite funny too. I used to quiz him about all of my late heroes that he had played with, including Oliver Nelson of whom he remarked: “Oliver could drink Thad drunk”.

Frank Wess, a name not limited to one direction. He strode fully in all four.

Categories: miscellaneous

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