Other Places: Frank Wess

In today’s Washington Post, Matt Schudel writes about Frank Wess. The 86-year-old tenor saxophonist and flutist is still active and about to play in Washington, D.C., where he spent much of his early career. Schudel quotes pianist Billy Taylor, Wess’s contemporary, about the saxophonist’s influence on him when they were in high school together.

“He’s the reason I don’t play the tenor saxophone,” Taylor says. “I was going to try to be the new Ben Webster,” the tenor saxophonist who worked with another notable Washington jazzman, Duke Ellington.

Then Taylor heard Wess, and he decided to stick with the piano.

“Even in his teens, he was really a remarkable player,” he says.

To read all of Schudel’s article, click here.

Wess was a principal arranger and soloist in Count Basie’s band during the 1950s and early ’60s. In this video clip, he solos on his composition “Corner Pocket,” following trumpeters Thad Jones and Al Aarons.

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Comments

  1. says

    When I was in high school, most of the kids in my circle of friends were into progressive rock — Rush, Genesis, Yes, King Crimson and the like. One acquaintance of mine was a very talented drummer who idolized Neil Peart of Rush.
    One day he popped a cassette into the boombox on a bus trip and said to the gang, “You’ve gotta check this out!” We were all expecting some complex prog drum solo.
    It was a tape of a concert by the Count Basie band. My friend was enthralled. He cranked up the boombox as loud as it would go and air-drummed along with the band just like he did for all his rock idols.
    One never knows, does one?

  2. says

    I’ve just got back this evening from seeing Frank Wess play a fabulous set with his quintet in Columbia, Missouri. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time but never had reason to write before… to get home and see your post seemed too much of a coincidence to ignore.
    He played wonderfully well, full of authority and grace. He was so good that even my wife’s lifelong aversion to jazz flute has finally been conquered. (Next stop, Charles Lloyd and Tubby Hayes!) Cracking band, too – especially Rufus Reid and Terrell Stafford. What a wonderful, swinging night. Pure bliss.

  3. Alexander Cohen says

    Just a short note to thank you for your extensive references and recommendations. Also to remind you that Freddie Greene and not Frank Wess composed “Corner Pocket” (aka “Until I Met You”)…as per your 16 November entries on Frank W. See: The Count Meets the Duke, Columbia CS8515 7/6/61 NYC. Frank Wess DID write the wonderful composition “Segue in C” found on The Count Meets the Duke, 1961, on which “Corner Pocket” appears. It is a marvel, check it out in your collection!
    (I regret the error and appreciate the correction — DR)