Opus De Blues + Bonus Tracks
Frank Wess & Thad Jones
Featuring: Thad Jones (tp), Curtis Fuller, Al Grey (tb), Frank Wess (fl, ts), Billy Mitchell (ts), Charlie Fowlkes (bs), Hank Jones (p), Eddie Jones, Richard Davis (b), Gus Johnson, Osie Johnson (d)
REFERENCE: FSRCD 727
BAR CODE: -
Frank Wess is among the more assured and accomplished of all jazz flautists and one of the most authoritative tenor saxophonists from the great Count Basie band of the Fifties.
In the 1959 Savoy session here he fronts his own septet with his Basie teammate, trumpeter Thad Jones, who wrote most of the compositions on the date, by his side. Idiomatically it is typical of the various Basie-type small group albums of the time, with beautifully relaxed and swinging ensembles and plenty of well-ordered room for a roster of excellent front line soloists. Hank Jones contributes some gem-like solos in a rocksolid
rhythm section completed by bassist Eddie Jones and drummer Gus Johnson and the overall feeling is an unalloyed joy.
The second septet date of this CD—recorded in 1960 for the Roulette label—is another pocket edition of the Basie band—leader Thad Jones, Wess, tenor saxophonist Billy Mitchell, and trombonist Al Grey—with the exception of the rhythm section, again under the guidance of Thad’s young brother, pianist Hank Jones, assisted this time by Richard Davis, bass and Osie Johnson, drums. The tunes, composed by Thad Jones, and the arrangements reflect a progressive and consistent mainstream jazz approach. Wess impresses on flute, and in both tenor and alto, while Billy Mitchell and Al Grey are consistency personified on a date replete with that warm, moving feeling that characterized the Basie band.
01. I Hear Ya Talkin’ (Frank Wess) 4:09
02. Liz (Thad Jones) 3:33
03. Boop De Doop (Curtis Fuller) 8:39
04. Opus De Blues (Thad Jones) 10:57
05. Struttin’ Down His Broadway (Thad Jones) 5:36
06. Subtle Rebuttal (Thad Jones) 3:56
07. Tip Toe (Thad Jones) 3:29
08. H & T Blues (Thad Jones) 9:47
09. Friday the 13th (Thad Jones) 6:49
Tracks #1-5, from the album
“Opus De Blues” (Savoy MG12142)
Tracks #6-8, from the album
“The Birdland Story” (Roulette SRB-2)
Track #9, from the album
“Lee Morgan/Thad Jones – Minor Strain”
Personnel on #1-5:
The Frank Wess Septet
Thad Jones, trumpet; Curtis Fuller, trombone, Frank Wess, flute on #2 & 4, tenor sax on #1,3 & 5, Charlie Fowlkes, baritone sax; Hank Jones, piano, Eddie Jones, bass; Gus Johnson, drums
Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 8, 1959
Personnel on #6-9:
The Thad Jones Septet
Thad Jones, trumpet; Al Grey, trombone; Billy Mitchell, tenor sax, Frank Wess, flute on #6 & 7, tenor sax on #7 & 8, alto sax on #9, Hank Jones, piano; Richard Davis, bass; Osie Johnson, drums
Capitol Studios, New York City, May 12, 1960
Original recordings produced by Ozzie Cadena
and Teddy Reig
This CD compilation produced by Jordi Pujol
Stereo · 24-Bit Digitally Remastered
"The Frank Wess date Opus De Blues was recorded in 1959 but remained unissued, somehow, until 1991. The Thad Jones tracks were originally part of an unwieldy two-LP set called The Birdland Story, so the packaging of these two slightly out-of-the-way sessions is again good thinking, especially as seven of the nine tracks are Jones originals.
The first session features fellow Basie hand Charlie Fowlkes on baritone sax and Curtis Fuller on trombone, with Hank Jones heading a three-piece rhythm section that manages the right swing feel while adding a few modern flourishes. Hank’s soloing is particularly tasty and his sense of humor is in evidence, the sly quote of “Star Eyes” at the beginning of his solo on “Boop De Doop” a noteworthy example. Though he’s listed as playing tenor and flute, Wess also plays alto on the opening “I Hear Ya Talkin’”.
On the Birdland date (not sure what the reasoning behind that title was, since it was mostly a collection of unrelated studio sessions), our two protagonists are joined by Al Grey and Billy Mitchell. Is the cast sounding familiar yet? They certainly sound familiar to one another, making Thad’s charts sound as easy to play as they are to listen to, which is easy indeed! Brother Hank returns with more great piano comping and soloing and we get another rare chance to hear Wess’ alto, on “Friday the 13th”. Fans of his fine flute work and fluid tenor will find lots to like throughout the two sessions as well, of course.
Opus De Blues is certainly a worthwhile addition to any collection but the Carter/Basie collaborations rank among the very greatest postwar big band records. You’ll like the former and you need the latter."
Duck Baker -March, 2013
The New York City Jazz Record
"There was a great tradition of small swing combos in the late 1930s, remarkable for the standard of their musicianship and the relaxed ease they brought to the recording studio. Came the bebop revolution. Came the revival of the New Orleans tradition. Then – as if none of that had happened – bands like these two exceptionally fine septets carried the small-band swing banner forward, speaking the same jumping, melodic, effortless language preached a world war before by people like John Kirby and by Dorsey’s Clambake Seven and Shaw’s Gramercy Five.
Like the latter two, the Wess and Jones septets were largely drawn from one of the great big bands: Basie followers will instantly recognise these artists, playing here while Basie’s and other jazz orchestras were struggling to survive. What’s significant to me is that these musicians were faithful to a style which was deceptive in its simplicity and which they honoured with fine instrumental techniques and with well-rounded experience. Frank Wess, for example, had studied flute in Washington with the National Symphony Orchestra’s soloist and held a degree in music; Thad Jones, who like Wess was an accomplished arranger, was also a prolific writer of neat melodies and provided seven of the nine tunes played on these dates.
There are moments of real inspiration in the free-flowing solos by all of the front-line men – bursts of fire from Jones’s trumpet and some driving tenor by Wess, although he’s better remembered for his flute. The rhythm section’s lightly skipping elegance was inspired from the Jones brother’s keyboard and the ensembles mesh with well-oiled precision. From the 12-bar construction of I Hear Ya to the crisp articulation of Friday (when Wess reverts to alto, the instrument he first picked up at the age of 10) a seductive feeling of joy hangs around this music."
Anthony Troon -February, 2013
More at www.jazzjournal.co.uk