By Jean TimmonsWess continues! Veteran, NEA American Jazz Master Frank Wess, who played with the Count Basie Orchestra, makes it clear with this recent recording that once is not enough. For this performance, tenor saxophonist and flutist Wess is playing with a band of nine musicians: Frank Green and Terell Stafford (trumpets), Steve Turre (trombone), Ted Nash (alto sax and flute), Scott Robinson (bass sax, baritone sax, and flute), Gerald Clayton (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Winard Harper (drums) plus guest musicians Rufus Reid (bass) and Michael Weiss (piano). On most of the music, Wess gets that big band sound from his musicians.
For this date, Wess worked with six original compositions and three standards. His “Sara’s Song” displays the skills of the band to great effect. Wess’ tenor leads the way and eases in the rest of the nonet. The piece moves almost in that marching manner and Wess is really blowing. The drummer swings with controlled wildness and the piece ends up being very joyful. Wess’ “Dementia, My Darling” is melodic and bluesy. Noted in the linear notes, the piece is a tribute to Ben Webster and that sentiment is conveyed. Those two compositions are most memorable; while the rest are good vehicles for the band.
On the standards, Wess displays his lyrical playing with and without the flute. The group plays “Sweet and Lovely” with three flute solos: by Wess, Ted Nash, and Scott Robinson. Wess is back on flute wings for “Fly Me to the Moon” and stays with it throughout. The lyrical, gentle Wess steps up for “Lush Life,” and this is one of those numbers for which Wess subtracts a quartet from the nonet. The members of the quartet are Wess, bassist Reid, pianist Weiss, and drummer Harper.
It’s well-orchestrated music and very easy to listen to.