Frank Wess

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Frank Wess
Frank Wess & Jimmy Owens.jpg
Frank Wess (left) and Jimmy Owens (1977)
Background information
Born (1922-01-04)January 4, 1922
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
Died October 30, 2013(2013-10-30) (aged 91)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Tenor saxophone
Alto Saxophone
Years active 1950s – 2013

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


Wess was born in Kansas City, MO, 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 during World War II although he did play with a military band in the period. After leaving the military, he joined Billy Eckstine's orchestra.[1] He returned to Washington DC 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's 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 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 the New York Jazz Quartet (with Roland Hanna).[2] He also did a variety of work for TV.[3] In 1968 Wess contributed to the landmark album The Jazz Composer's Orchestra. Always a versatile, reliably swinging soloist, he played tenor and alto sax, always "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.

Frank Wess died from a heart attack related to kidney failure on October 30, 2013.[4][5]


As leader[edit]

With the New York Jazz Quartet

As sideman[edit]

With Toshiko Akiyoshi

With Manny Albam

With Gene Ammons

With Dorothy Ashby

With Count Basie

With Hank Crawford

With Bobby Hutcherson

With Milt Jackson

With Elvin Jones

With Quincy Jones

With Thad Jones

With Yusef Lateef

With Junior Mance

With Arif Mardin

With Jimmy McGriff

With Charles McPherson

With Oliver Nelson

With David Newman

With Joe Newman

With Chico O'Farrill

With Houston Person

With Buddy Rich

With A. K. Salim

With Woody Shaw

With Zoot Sims

  • Passion Flower: Zoot Sims Plays Duke Ellington (1979) [6]

With Melvin Sparks

With Leon Spencer

With Billy Taylor

With Charles Williams


  1. ^ "Frank Wess: The Message of Swing". Retrieved 2013-11-03. 
  2. ^ Scott Yanow (1922-01-04). "Frank Wess | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-11-03. 
  3. ^ "Frank Wess". 1922-01-04. Retrieved 2013-11-03. 
  4. ^ Hum, Peter. "RIP, Frank Wess | Ottawa Citizen". Retrieved 2013-11-03. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Zoot Sims Discography". Retrieved 2013-11-03. 

External links[edit]