Frank Wess: Lush Life
Frank Wess Nonet
Once Is Not Enough (Labeth Music LMCD 101)
Composed by Billy Strayhorn.
Recorded: New York, June 10, 2008
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
Tenor saxophonist/flutist Frank Wess is one of the few great Basie-ites active into the 21st century. In 2008—on the heels of being honored as an NEA Jazz Master—Wess led a nonet at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in New York. That gig led to the making of this recording. Most of the tunes on Once is Not Enough are arranged for nonet, yet there are a couple of quartet tracks, "Lush Life" being one. Joined by a rhythm section of pianist Michael Weiss, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Winard Harper, Wess shows he's still a formidable tenor player. He renders the Billy Strayhorn classic with a pure, bittersweet tone and unerring good taste. Wess makes melodic embellishments seem like an essential part of the tune and his improvisation an extension of Strayhorn's intent. Weiss's piano accompaniment is elegant, his solo understated and affecting. Reid and Harper know what to do and do it very well. Guys like Wess won’t be around forever. Fortunately for us, their music will be. A lovely performance.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey