Predictability is often used with a negative connotation when it comes to critical examination of any artistic work. When an individual brings his A game from a wheelhouse that is the cornerstone of the old school ballads and blues riff that takes one back to the days of Ben Webster and Lester Young then predictability is a beautiful thing.
Magic 101 is a captivating and incredibly organic presentation from 91 year old legend Frank Wess. Toss in one of the finest rhythm sections that includes the great Kenny Barron on piano, Kenny Davis on bass and Winard Harper on drums and the end result is a showcase for an instrumental artist that is original in presentation while sticking to that old school wheelhouse of the classic ballad interpretation of some timeless classic reinvented by a master story teller in Wess. This ensemble functions as a well oiled machine and puts the paddles to an incredibly important area and subsequent development of the jazz standard with amazing results. No tune may better exemplify the "predictability" of this release better then the dazzling duet with Kenny Barron on "Come Rain or Come Shine." At the time of this recording Frank Wess was 89 with plenty of gas still left in the tank.
Perfection can be a loaded word when describing any release given that taste is subjective but when carefully applied to the subject matter then there are those recordings where a legitimate case can be made. While a ballads and blues release can seem to some as an easy way out, most accomplished musicians can handle the tunes included on this delightful package but long story short has most musicians with the ability to play the notes but only a handful can actually make the music. A forward thinking lyrical approach coupled with a zen like performance where no notes are wasted as tunes such as "The Very Thought Of You" and "Blue Monk" recharged and reinvented for the next generation of jazz fans and performers alike. Frank Wess contributes the original "Pretty Lady" which if it were not for a working knowledge of the catalog that Wess is pulling from would seem to be a jazz standard in the on deck circle. The Wess composition is slightly edgier in tone but as a duet with pianist Kenny Barron achieves a delightful balance of texture and a layered effect that permeates the entire release. Frank Wess demonstrates an other worldly command of shifting dynamics on the solo performance of the Ellington tune "All To Soon."
It would be all to easy to go over board with a more incisive technical breakdown but here the music and the emotionally connectivity achieved within each tune far outweighs what some of us learned in theory class.
Frank Wess reminds us what pure passion is all about. A dynamic release and a genuine must have for most any library.
Tracks: Say It Isn't So; The Very Thought Of You; Pretty Lady; Come Rain or Come Shine; Easy Living; Blue Monk; All Too Soon.
Personnel: Frank Wess: tenor sax; Kenny Barron: piano; Kenny Davis: bass; Winard Harper: bass.
Special Thanks To Jim at Jazz Promo Services.