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Frank Wess

Frank Wess

American saxophonist and flautist, composer and arranger
The basics
Occupations Composer Conductor Saxophonist Jazz musician Bandmaster
Countries United States of America
Gender male
Birth January 4, 1922 (Kansas City)
Death October 30, 2013 (Manhattan)
Authority Discogs id IMDB id ISNI id Library of congress id Musicbrainz id VIAF id
Frank Wess
The details

Frank Wellington Wess (January 4, 1922 – October 30, 2013) was an American jazz saxophonist and flautist. In addition to his extensive solo work, Wess is remembered for his time in Count Basie's band from the early 1950s into the '60s. Critic Scott Yannow described him as one of the premier proteges of Lester Young, and a leading jazz flautist of his era -- using the later instrument to bring new colors to Basie's music.


Wess was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of a principal father and a schoolteacher mother. He began with classical music training and played in Oklahoma in high school. He later switched to jazz on moving to Washington, D. C. and by nineteen was working with big bands. His career was interrupted by World War II although he did play with a military band in the period. After leaving the military, he joined Billy Eckstine's orchestra. He returned to Washington D.C. a few years afterwards and received a degree in flute at the city's Modern School of Music. He played tenor sax with Count Basie from 1953 to 1964, doubling on flute.

Wess was considered one of the best jazz flautists of his time. From 1959 to 1964, he won the Down Beat magazine critics' poll for flute.

He was a member of Clark Terry's big band from 1967 into the 1970s and played in the New York Jazz Quartet (with Roland Hanna). He also did a variety of work for TV. In 1968 he contributed to the album The Jazz Composer's Orchestra. He played tenor and alto sax, doubling on flute throughout his career.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he worked with Kenny Barron, Rufus Reid, Buck Clayton, Benny Carter, Billy Taylor, Harry Edison, Mel Tormé, Ernestine Anderson, Louie Bellson, John Pizzarelli, Howard Alden, Dick Hyman, Jane Jarvis, Frank Vignola and was a featured member of the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra. In the 2000s, Wess released two albums with Hank Jones. In 2007, Wess was named an NEA Jazz Master by the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts.

Wess died from a heart attack related to kidney failure on October 30, 2013.


As leader

  • Flutes & Reeds (Savoy, 1955)
  • Opus in Swing (Savoy, 1956)
  • North, South, East...Wess (Savoy, 1956)
  • Jazz for Playboys (Savoy, 1957)
  • Wheelin' & Dealin' (Prestige, 1957)
  • Opus De Blues (Savoy, 1959)
  • The Frank Wess Quartet (Moodsville, 1960)
  • Southern Comfort (Prestige, 1962)
  • Yo Ho! Poor You, Little Me (Prestige, 1963)
  • Wess to Memphis (1970)
  • Flute of the Loom (1973)
  • Flute Juice (1981)
  • Two for the Blues (1983)
  • Two at the Top (Uptown, 1983)
  • Entre Nous (Concord, 1990)
  • Going Wess (1993)
  • Tryin' to Make My Blues Turn Green (Concord, 1994)
  • Surprise, Surprise (Chiaroscuro, 1995)
  • Hank and Frank (2002)
  • Hank and Frank II (2009)
  • Magic 101 (IPO, 2013)

With the New York Jazz Quartet

  • In Concert in Japan (Salvation, 1975)
  • Surge (Enja, 1977)
  • Song of the Black Knight (Sonet, 1977)
  • Blues for Sarka (Enja, 1978)
  • New York Jazz Quartet in Chicago (Bee Hive, 1981)
  • Oasis (Enja, 1981)

As sideman

With Toshiko Akiyoshi

  • Carnegie Hall Concert

With Manny Albam

  • The Soul of the City (Solid State, 1966)

With Gene Ammons

  • Velvet Soul (Prestige, 1960 [1964])
  • Angel Eyes (Prestige, 1960 [1965])

With Dorothy Ashby

  • The Jazz Harpist (Regent, 1957)
  • In a Minor Groove (New Jazz, 1958)
  • Hip Harp (Prestige, 1958)

With Count Basie

  • And the Kansas City 7 (Impulse!, 1962)

With Count Basie Orchestra

  • Dance Session (Clef, 1953)
  • Dance Session Album #2 (Clef, 1954)
  • Basie (Clef, 1954)
  • Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings (Clef, 1955) with Joe Williams
  • April in Paris (Verve, 1956)
  • The Greatest!! Count Basie Plays, Joe Williams Sings Standards with Joe Williams
  • Metronome All-Stars 1956 (Clef, 1956) with Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Williams
  • Hall of Fame (Verve, 1956 [1959])
  • Basie in London (Verve, 1956)
  • One O'Clock Jump (1957)
  • The Atomic Mr. Basie (Roulette, 1957) aka Basie and E=MC2
  • Basie Plays Hefti (Roulette, 1958)
  • Chairman of the Board (Roulette 1958)
  • Sing Along with Basie (Roulette, 1958) with Joe Williams and Lambert, Hendricks & Ross
  • Basie One More Time (Roulette, 1959)
  • Breakfast Dance and Barbecue (Roulette, 1959)
  • Everyday I Have the Blues (Roulette, 1959)
  • Dance Along with Basie (Roulette, 1959)
  • String Along with Basie (Roulette, 1960)
  • Not Now, I'll Tell You When (Roulette, 1960)
  • The Count Basie Story (Roulette, 1960)
  • Kansas City Suite (Roulette, 1960)
  • First Time! The Count Meets the Duke (Columbia, 1961)
  • The Legend (Roulette, 1961)
  • Back with Basie (Roulette, 1962)
  • Basie in Sweden (Roulette, 1962)
  • On My Way & Shoutin' Again! (Verve, 1962)
  • This Time by Basie! (Reprise, 1963)
  • More Hits of the 50's and 60's (Verve, 1963)
  • Ella and Basie! (Verve, 1963)

With Kenny Clarke

  • Telefunken Blues (Savoy, 1955)

With Hank Crawford

  • Mr. Blues Plays Lady Soul (Atlantic, 1969)

With Harry Edison

  • Swing Summit (Candid, 1990)

With Frank Foster

  • No Count (Savoy, 1956)

With Gene Harris

  • Nothin' But the Soul (Concord, 1995)

With Johnny Hodges

  • Don't Sleep in the Subway (Verve, 1967)
  • 3 Shades of Blue (Flying Dutchman, 1970)

With Bobby Hutcherson

  • Conception: The Gift of Love (Columbia, 1979)

With Milt Jackson

  • Meet Milt Jackson (Savoy, 1955)
  • Opus de Jazz (Savoy, 1955)
  • Bags & Flutes (Atlantic, 1957)

With J. J. Johnson

  • Broadway Express (RCA Victor, 1965)

With Elvin Jones

  • Elvin! (Riverside, 1961–62)
  • And Then Again (Atlantic, 1965)
  • Time Capsule (Vanguard, 1977)

With Quincy Jones

  • The Birth of a Band! (Mercury, 1959)

With Thad Jones

  • Olio (Prestige, 1957)
  • After Hours (Prestige, 1957)

With Yusef Lateef

  • Part of the Search (Atlantic, 1973)

With Junior Mance

  • I Believe to My Soul (Atlantic, 1968)

With Arif Mardin

  • Journey (Atlantic, 1974)

With Les McCann

  • Another Beginning (Atlantic, 1974)

With Jimmy McGriff

  • The Big Band (Solid State, 1966)

With Charles McPherson

  • Today's Man (Mainstream, 1973)

With Oliver Nelson

  • The Spirit of '67 with Pee Wee Russell (Impulse!, 1967)

With David Newman

  • The Weapon (Atlantic, 1973)

With Joe Newman

  • The Count's Men (Jazztone, 1955)
  • I Feel Like a Newman (Storyville, 1956)
  • The Midgets (Vik, 1956)
  • The Happy Cats (Coral, 1957)
  • Counting Five in Sweden (Metronome, 1958)
  • Jive at Five (Swingville, 1960)

With Chico O'Farrill

  • Nine Flags (Impulse!, 1966)

With Houston Person

  • Sweet Buns & Barbeque (Prestige, 1972)

With Buddy Rich

  • The Wailing Buddy Rich (Norgran, 1955)

With A. K. Salim

  • Flute Suite (Savoy, 1957) with Herbie Mann

With Woody Shaw

  • Rosewood (Columbia, 1977)

With Zoot Sims

  • Passion Flower: Zoot Sims Plays Duke Ellington (1979)

With Melvin Sparks

  • Akilah! (Prestige, 1972)

With Leon Spencer

  • Where I'm Coming From (Prestige, 1973)

With Billy Taylor

  • Billy Taylor with Four Flutes (Riverside, 1959)
  • Kwamina (Mercury, 1961)

With Charles Williams

  • Stickball (Mainstream, 1972)

With Gerald Wilson

  • New York, New Sound (Mack Avenue, 2003)

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