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One of the first major jazz flutists, Frank Wess was also a top Lester Young-influenced tenor man, an expert first altoist, and an occasional composer/arranger -- certainly a valuable man to have around. Early on he toured with Blanche Calloway, served in the military, and had stints with the Billy Eckstine Orchestra (1946), Eddie Heywood, Lucky Millinder, and R&B star Bull Moose Jackson. That was all just a prelude to Wess' important period with Count Basie's big band, from 1953-1964. His flute playing, so expertly utilized in Neal Hefti's arrangements, gave the Basie Orchestra a fresh new sound, and his cool-toned tenor contrasted well with the more passionate sound of fellow tenor Frank Foster; Wess also had opportunities to play alto with the classic big band. Wess subsequently freelanced in countless settings, playing with Clark Terry's big band, the New York Jazz Quartet (with Roland Hanna) during the second half of the 1970s, Dameronia (1981-1985), and Toshiko Akiyoshi's big band, and also had occasional reunions with Frank Foster. Frank Wess led sessions for Commodore (1954), Savoy, Prestige, Moodsville, Pablo (with Foster), Progressive, Uptown, Concord, and Town Crier. He died of a heart attack at the age of 91 in Manhattan on October 30, 2013. ~ Scott Yanow
Frank Wellington Wess
04 January 1922 in Kansas City, MO
'50s, '60s, '70s, '80s