Magic 101
Review by Willard Manus

If eloquence and economy are what you like in a jazz musician, you need look no further than Frank Wess, the ex-Basie and Bill Charlap sideman. Now in his 80s, Wess shows off his inimitable style of playing on MAGIC 101, his latest offering on the IPO label.

Alternating between sax and flute, Wess explores seven tunes on MAGIC 101, backed up by such colleagues as Kenny Barron (piano), Kenny Davis (Bass), and Winard Harper
(drums). You can't go wrong with a quartet like that; these veteran musicians know how to utilize space and time in their improvisations, investigate each and every note in a thoughtful, probing way.

This is classic straight-ahead jazz, but it is performed with such delicacy and skill that it can't help sounding fresh and modern. Wess leads the pack throughout, improvising on such compositions as Say It Isn't So, Come Rain or Come Shine and Blue Monk, making them sound newly born in the world.