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Suprise, Surprise (Live At the 1996 Floating Jazz Festival)

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Album Review

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 á 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. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Born: 04 January 1922 in Kansas City, MO

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

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...
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Suprise, Surprise (Live At the 1996 Floating Jazz Festival), Frank Wess
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