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Legend of Jazz Frank Wess

11 November 2013

Frank Wellington Wess (January 4, 1922 – October 30, 2013) was an American jazz saxophonist and flautist.

He began with classical music and played in Oklahoma. He later switched to jazz on moving to Washington, D. C. and by nineteen was working in theBig Bands. His career was interrupted during World War II although he did play with a military band in the period. After being demobbed, he joinedBilly Eckstine‘s orchestra. He returned to Washington DC a few years afterwards and received a degree in flute at the city’s Modern School Of Music. From 1953 he joined Count Basie‘s band, playing flute and tenor sax. He reverted to alto sax in the late ’50s, and left Basie’s band in 1964. From 1959 to 1964 he won Down Beat‘s critic poll for flute. He was a member of Clark Terry‘s big band from 1967 into the 1970s and played in theNew York Jazz Quartet (with Roland Hanna). He also did a variety of work for TV. In 1968 Wess contributed to the landmark album The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra.


In the 1980s and 1990s, he worked with Kenny BarronRufus ReidBuck ClaytonBenny CarterBilly TaylorHarry EdisonMel TorméErnestine AndersonLouie BellsonJohn Pizzarelli,Howard AldenDick HymanJane JarvisFrank 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.

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


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