Hank and Frank
Mainstream swing recordings featuring veteran players can carry a special set of deep satisfactions. Musicians who came of age playing in big bands and/or working with legendary leaders who exemplified the small-group-swing style retain a palpable air of poise and relaxation that sets them apart from younger players approximating older music. Take this endearing CD by pianist Hank Jones and saxophonist and flautist Frank Wess. Both players exude a winning combination of mature skill and freshness, not to mention sheer authenticity that makes their meeting an affirmation of individual resilience and the benefits of a lifetime of musical experience.
As he so abundantly displayed on his recent encounters with Joe Lovano, Jones’ inventiveness has kept pace with his still- pristine keyboard touch. Consistency is Jones’ trademark; singling out exceptional moments becomes foolhardy. Wess, for his part, extracts an attractively muscular tone from his horn that brings just the right touch of brawn to his meticulously melodic lines. “A Hankering” exhibits his superb way with a slow blues; “Autumn Serenade” his ease with medium-tempo ballads.
Wess’ fluid flute works to great effect on one of the album’s highlights: a Hank-Frank duet on “The Very Thought of You.” Again, the relaxed swing that both men impart throughout is a marvel that can, but shouldn’t be taken for granted. The endearingly loose groove that the co-leaders stir up also spills over to their fine support team: drummer Mickey Roker, bassist Jon Webber and guitarist Ilya Lushtak.