Frank Wess (left) and Jimmy Owens (1977)
January 4, 1922|
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||October 30, 2013
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
|Years active||1950s – 2013|
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. 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). He also did a variety of work for TV. 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.
- 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)
- 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 Toshiko Akiyoshi
With Manny Albam
- The Soul of the City (Solid State, 1966)
With Gene Ammons
With Dorothy Ashby
With Count Basie
- One O'Clock Jump (1957)
- E=MC² (1957)
- April in Paris (1957)
- Ella and Basie! (1963)
- First Time! The Count Meets the Duke (1961)
With Bobby Hutcherson
- Conception: The Gift of Love (Columbia, 1979)
With Milt Jackson
With Elvin Jones
With Thad Jones
With Yusef Lateef
- Part of the Search (Atlantic, 1973)
With Arif Mardin
- Journey (Atlantic, 1974)
With Jimmy McGriff
- The Big Band (Solid State, 1966)
With Charles McPherson
- Today's Man (Mainstream, 1973)
With Oliver Nelson
With Chico O'Farrill
- Nine Flags (Impulse!, 1966)
With Houston Person
- Sweet Buns & Barbeque (Prestige, 1972)
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
With Charles Williams
- Stickball (Mainstream, 1972)
- "Frank Wess: The Message of Swing". Allaboutjazz.com. Retrieved 2013-11-03.
- Scott Yanow (1922-01-04). "Frank Wess | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-11-03.
- "Frank Wess". Hpnewyork.com. 1922-01-04. Retrieved 2013-11-03.
- Hum, Peter. "RIP, Frank Wess | Ottawa Citizen". Blogs.ottawacitizen.com. Retrieved 2013-11-03.
- "Zoot Sims Discography". Jazzdisco.org. Retrieved 2013-11-03.
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