Born in Kansas City, Missouri, on January 4, 1922, Frank Wess was one of the first major jazz flutists and 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