Frank Wess

Surprise! Surprise!

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This double CD comprises organized tunes from Wess with his quartet as well as some loose jam sessions withguest soloists over a span of four days aboard the S/S Norway for the Floating Jazz Festival. Wess himself has never sounded better, on tenor sax and especially on flute. Master piano accompanist Richard Wyands lifts the music to a higher level, Lynn Seaton is rock-solid rhythmically and unique amongst melodically oriented bassists, and drummer Winard Harper gives it his all throughout, yielding world-class, swinging results. Beginning with a pair of of good swingers to warm up, "All or Nothing at All" and "A Beautiful Friendship" establish the leader in firm control. Fellow tenor saxophonist Frank Foster then steps up for the tour de force ballad "My Funny Valentine," running over 18 minutes. Then Wess and the trio take over for the remainder of the side: a Sam Jones-written quick bopper on flute, "One for Amos," with Seaton's grinding vocals รก la Slam Stewart on Howlin' Wolf vitamins; the classic Cedar Walton piece "Firm Roots" and Wess' composition "Nada Mas," on which flute dances to a bossa beat. On the second disc it's time to stretch out and improvise at length. Wess and Foster work out on tenors for the romping, stomping "It Could Happen to You." Flip Phillips joins Wess on tenors for the flailing, hard-swinging "Cottontail," Phillips' tart-sweet sound contrasting the more ribald feeling of the leader. Then, with Wess on tenor for the title track finale - another original by Wess -- the quartet dishes out an easy swinger signifying the end of a show. His light blue tenor is chirping brightly, indicating he has plenty left for some other time.

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