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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Magic 101

IPO Recordings IPOC 1023



1. Say It Isn’t So
2. The Very Thought Of You
3. Pretty Lady
4. Come Rain Or Come Shine
5. Easy Living
6. Blue Monk
7. All Too Soon

Frank Wess - Tenor sax
Kenny Barron - Piano
Kenny Davis - Bass
Winard Harper - Drums


Hoagy Carmichael’s wonderful lyric “Old rockin’ chair’s got me, my cane by my side” does not apply to that nonagenarian Frank Wess (91) and his septuagenarian (70) cohort Kenny Barron as they display their considerable musical wares in Magic 101. 

Frank Wess was an important part of the sax section in the Count Basie New Testament band from 1953 to 1964 where, in addition to playing tenor sax, he doubled on alto but also was one of the first to use the flute in many of his solos. Kenny Barron, who was originally from Philadelphia but made his name in New York, is a pianist in the bebop tradition who has always been a creative, reliable, and resourceful player. In this session of all-too-familiar tunes, with perhaps the exception of Wess’s own composition Pretty Lady, we are treated to what has become somewhat of a rarity in jazz today: a lyrical album with sympathetic and open-minded partners. Starting with Say It Isn’t So where faultless taste abounds, Wess and Barron spin their musical ideas from the ground up on this up-tempo rendition. The other mid-level swinger in this set is Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk which opens with a caressing solo from Kenny Barron with some Monk-like figures thrown in for good measure. Wess picks up the theme then devolves into a lengthy solo of sensitive sinuousness. 

All the other tracks are done in ballad tempo with The Very Thought Of You and Come Rain Or Come Shine especially effective given the solid and coherent style of both Wess and Barron which they play out with brilliant naturalness. The final track is Duke Ellington’s All Too Soon which Wess takes on in an unaccompanied solo that, despite his age, gives him the opportunity to show that he is still an imaginative and highly flexible player. 

This is a delicious album filled full of life and a welcoming idea of jazz.

Pierre Giroux  

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