Frank Wess

Opus de Blues

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Opus de Blues Review

by Jim Todd

Previously unreleased until 1991, this 1959 date features Frank Wess leading a septet of players mainly associated with Count Basie, pianist Hank Jones the only one not from some version of the Count's organization.

Unlike some of the other Savoy releases in the Opus De series, this is not chamber jazz, but a relaxed, blowing session. The five blues-based themes are pleasant, easygoing vehicles, familiar ground for any Basie associate. The playing is skillful, although unremarkable. The exceptions, typical for a Wess session, occur when the leader switches to flute, giving listeners a taste of the most interesting aspect of his musicianship: a satisfying blend of fluid grace and breathy impertinence.

Besides the leaders' flute work, the Jones brothers, Hank and Thad, contribute the session's more original blues interpretations. There is also some tight ensemble work from the horns on Wess's "I hear Ya Talkin'" and Thad Jones' "Struttin' Down Broadway."

Not essential listening, but of possible interest to Basiephiles. The sound recording is good, accurately capturing the horns, rhythm section, and ensemble parts.

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