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Thad JONES, Frank WESS, Teddy CHARLES, Mal WALDRON – Olio 1957

Posted in Doug WATKINS, Elvin JONES, Frank WESS, JAZZ, Mal WALDRON, Teddy CHARLES, Thad JONES on December 25, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Thad JONES, Frank WESS, Teddy CHARLES, Mal WALDRON – Olio 1957
1999 Issue. OJCCD 1004-2


The title is not misspelled, and the Sonny Rollins tune is not played here. (Ira Gitler made this point in the original liner notes; it’s a point still worth making.) “Olio” is an old vaudeville term meaning “medley” or “variety”, and that’s what you get in this Prestige jam session from 1957. While some do not like the looseness of jams, this one benefits from two great organizers: Mal Waldron, who could be counted on to bring ambitious tunes to his session, and Teddy Charles, producer of Prestige’s most “advanced” ‘Fifties dates. It’s Teddy’s production, and he also brings his distinctive vibes sound, giving us a different-tasting Olio.
The group is unfamiliar, but its members are not. Waldron and Doug Watkins had played on many Prestige jam sessions, Thad Jones and Frank Wess were on a 1954 date for Debut, and Charles was there with Elvin Jones on Miles’ Blue Moods. With this familiarity, the sound gels early. It opens with Waldron’s “Potpourri”, which was also done by John Coltrane. The contrapuntal theme, a bit blurred on the Trane version, here stands out, with Charles playing the melody, Wess and Thad playing unison responses. Elvin explodes on the bridge; his cymbals are great and his sticks click like mad. Wess takes the first solo, and makes himself known. His flute was a little breathy on the theme, but here he asserts, stretching fluid lines. Thad is similarly active, starting warm and slowly getting brassy. Charles starts slow while the rhythm pushes on; after four bars of meditation he gets moving, his tone blunt with little vibrato. Left and right hands converse in Waldron’s solo, which is more introspective than anyone else’s. The theme returns, and again Elvin steals the show.

“Blues Without Woe” is as described, a 12-bar pattern that sounds like a piece of a larger song. Thad’s solo sticks to theme in the first chorus, then gets more adventurous. Like “Potpourri” he starts subdued with short phrases, quickly developing into long boppy lines. He stays relaxed, even in his shouts. Charles comes on quiet, his rolling patterns sounding cool and intellectual. Wess, on tenor this time, is very mellow, recalling Lester even when his solo gains energy – a controlled heat which befits this track. Waldron’s solo is a series of patterns. Walked around the chords and repeated to great effect. Elvin crashes up a storm on his first round of fours, and snares us in the second round. The horns are more energetic on the fours, and Charles plays chords for the first time. The theme is played a single time, as it was in the beginning, and the happy blues come to an end.

“Touche” is Waldron’s best tune on the album, a clever bit of call-and-response with Wess’ flute sounding especially lovely. Wess opens with a handful of twittering figures, and sends us off with a long funky line, with the slightest gutteral sound at the end. Charles’ solo is a glory to behold. He starts off cerebral, his sounds picks up heat, Charles gets animated, and when he stops the excitement is visceral. Waldron’s solo begins just before Charles’ ends, heavy chords on the left side, deft notes on the right. Wess and Thad trade fours on the close, and the last half of the theme brings us to the end.

Charles’ “Dakar” is a revelation. The famous version was recorded two months later with Coltrane and two baritones. That version was dark and mysterious; what a difference a lineup makes! Charles parallels Waldron on the rhythmic opening; the vibes make the thunderous chords lighter. The theme is stated by Wess, and Thad’s harmony part is so high and pure it sounds like a second flute. The Trane version was a smoky, busy seaport; this is a graceful lady on a distant shore. Wess opens in the lower register, playing it slow and sensual, trilling a bit as the lady beckons you closer. The second chorus is higher and cheerful; you are now beside the lady, and she does a dance for you. Charles’ solo is low and sparse; as on Blue Moods he says a lot with a few notes. Thad’s solo is warm and confident where the others were exotic; perhaps he is a visitor to this distance place. Some nice dissonant chords from Charles open Waldron’s solo, which is brittle and percussive like some of his others. This “Dakar” is a nice place to visit; Coltrane would show us its other side later.

Warm chords and soft brushes open “Embraceable You”, a feature for Thad. Charles chords with Waldron, making the comping wonderfully thick. Thad never states the theme fully; that is up to Wess’ tenor, which really sounds like Lester this time around. The sophisticated sax takes us out, with a nice descending figure at the end.

“Hello Frisco” has an involved, clustered theme in which trumpet and sax weave while Charles dances on top. Waldron’s solo is sparse, reminiscent of “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise”; he then chords thick around Thad’s sad solo. Charles gets bluesy, with a fair bit of vibrato; it’s his best since “Touche”. Wess’ solo does a slow burn, with more aggression than his last effort. The theme closes it up, and we are left with an album that serves up varying moods, tangy tastes and varied voices. In other words, Olio.
By John Barrett Jr.
A classic Prestige jam session from the late 50s — one with Thad Jones on trumpet, Frank Wess on tenor and flute, Teddy Charles on vibes, Mal Waldron on piano, Doug Watkins on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. Charles is amazing, as he is on all of his Prestige recordings, and he plays with a dark edge that you seldom hear from other vibists at the time. Waldron’s the great unsung hero of these sessions, as his playing and compositions are consistently remarkable, and which provide great accompaniment for the horn players. Tracks include the fantastic “Dakar”, plus “Touche”, “Blues Without Woe”, and “Potpourri”.
From Dusty Groove.
Trumpeter Thad Jones receives first billing on this all-star outing, but vibraphonist Teddy Charles, who contributed three of the six selections (two of the other songs are by pianist Mal Waldron, while the lone standard is “Embraceable You”) was really the musical director. Jones, Charles, and Waldron are joined by Frank Wess (doubling on tenor and flute), bassist Doug Watkins, and drummer Elvin Jones for a set of modern hard bop. Although this was not a regular group and there is not an obvious leader, the music is on a higher level than that of a routine jam session. The challenging material and the high quality playing of the young greats makes this fairly obscure modern mainstream set (reissued on CD in 1998) well worth exploring.
By Scott Yanow. AMG.
Thad Jones- (Trumpet)
Mal Waldron- (Piano)
Frank Wess- (Tenor Sax, Flute on tracks 1, 3, 4)
Teddy Charles- (Vibraphone)
Doug Watkins- (Bass)
Elvin Jones- (Drums
01. Potpourri (Waldron) 6:04
02. Blues Without Woe (Charles) 7:58
03. Touché (Waldron) 6:25
04. Dakar (Charles) 6:58
05. Embraceable You (Gershwin, Gershwin) 4:17
06. Hello Frisco (Charles) 6:23
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Frank WESS Nonet – Once Is Not Enough 2009

Posted in Frank WESS, JAZZ on November 27, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Frank WESS Nonet – Once Is Not Enough 2009


Tenor saxophonist/flutist Frank Wess is one of the few great Basie-ites active into the 21st century. In 2008—on the heels of being honored as an NEA Jazz Master—Wess led a nonet at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York. That gig led to the making of this recording. Most of the tunes on Once is Not Enough are arranged for nonet, yet there are a couple of quartet tracks, “Lush Life” being one. Joined by a rhythm section of pianist Michael Weiss, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Winard Harper, Wess shows he’s still a formidable tenor player. He renders the Billy Strayhorn classic with a pure, bittersweet tone and unerring good taste. Wess makes melodic embellishments seem like an essential part of the tune and his improvisation an extension of Strayhorn’s intent. Weiss’s piano accompaniment is elegant, his solo understated and affecting. Reid and Harper know what to do and do it very well. Guys like Wess won’t be around forever. Fortunately for us, their music will be. A lovely performance.
By Chris Keisey.
In the musical numbers game, trios and quartets are a dime a dozen, with occasional duos and quintets. Anything larger than the latter is usually presented as a group, big band or orchestra, if anything at all, with Frank Wess Nonet defying that model.
Wess is an NEA American Jazz Master, and a veteran of the Count Basie Orchestra. For Once Is Not Enough, Wess leads an ensemble of nine musicians.
The title song is a lively, swinging piece. Wess leads on tenor sax, backed by a five-piece horn section. Drummer Winard Harper plays a standard rhythm on the hi-hat, but also mixes in some adept splash-and-crash cymbal work, as well as some rim shots. Scott Robinson contributes a baritone sax solo while bassist Peter Washington comes through here and there.
“Sara’s Song” presents more, with the background horns a little more involved. Harper throws in some sharp tom work during a bridge. Steve Turré performs a rumbling trombone solo during which the trio of Harper, Washington and pianist Gerald Clayton are in top form. They carry the pace, but also demonstrate some individual expression.
“Sweet and Lovely,” one of three covers, features Wess on flute. The brass and woodwinds engage in a spirited call-and-response before Wess’ solo, with a solid rhythm trio, while the other horns softly support in key places. After flute solos by Wess, Ted Nash and Robinson, Clayton tickles the ivories with vigor, the horns bringing a harmonious melody, followed by Wess’ lead.
Wess wrote all six original songs. Each of the eleven total players—no more than nine for any song—gets a moment to shine. And except for the cover of Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words),” all the songs give the musicians plenty of space to stretch out, and stretch they do.
By Woodrow Wilkins.
Revered saxophonist, flutist and composer Frank Wess is a longtime member of the Count Basie Orchestra, yet leads a nonet for the first time in his storied jazz career.  Here, he imparts a largely, medium-tempo swing groove, featuring six original compositions and three standards.  Nonetheless, the artist employs superior musicians, for this studio date, recorded in New York City.
Wess’ full-bodied tenor sax tone spawns a commanding presence.  He makes his horn sing throughout these radiant and cheery works, abetted by layered horns and the frontline’s mood-evoking solo jaunts.  The preponderance of these works are designed with zippy arrangements amid brisk soloing breakouts by Wess, trumpeter Terell Stafford, pianist Gerald Clayton and others.  And while no one charts new ground, the program projects a classic swing vibe that is fitted with a modernist-type viewpoint.
Wess executes a deep ballad, flourishing with soul-drenched sentiment on his comp titled “Dementia, My Darling.” And his flute work during “Sweet And Lovely,” offers a counterpoint to the hornists’ buoyantly enacted question and answer style responses.  Wess picks up the tempo on his piece “Backfire,” then he lowers the heat during his solitary reading of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life,” where the nonet is pared down to piano trio support.  Otherwise, he picks up the flute again with his blithe and relatively brief rendition of “Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words).”
In sum, Wess has produced an engaging endeavor, sprinkled with a sense of optimism via solid compositions and passionate spins on time-honored standards.  It’s a persuasive swing exposition, that decrees the essence of Wess’ musical mark of authenticity.
By Glenn Astarita.
Frank Wess- Tenor Saxophone,Flute;
Frank Greene- Trumpet;
Terell Stafford- Trumpet;
Steve Turre- Trombone;
Ted Nash- alto Saxophone, Flute;
Scott Robinson- Baritone Sax, Flute;
Gerald Clayton- Piano;
Michael Weiss- Piano;
Peter Washington- Bass;
Rufus Reid- Bass;
Winard Harper- Drums.
01.Once Is Not Enough
02.Sara’s Song
03.You Made A Good Move
04.Dementia, My Darling
05.Sweet And Lovely
07.Luch Life
08.Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)
09.Tryin’ To Make My Blues Turn Green

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