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Hank Jones and Frank Wess: Hank and Frank II

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Hank Jones and Frank Wess Hank and Frank II Lineage Records

Frank Wess Nonet Once Is Not Enough Labeth Music

The second meeting of Hank and Frank is built around a menu of “less than” standards and “too” standards and features performances by guitarist Ilya Lushtak and vocalist Marion Cowlings. I was not familiar with Cowlings’ previous work but will seek some of it out; he has good pitch, delivers lyrics well and uses pleasing phrasing, especially on medium- to-up tempo tunes. A time traveler from about 1968 would recognize everything in Lushtak’s musical vocabulary, which makes it simpatico with the rest of the proceedings. Nothing can be said to be amiss, but almost everything seems subdued, familiar, and predictable, including the playing of the excellent veteran drummer Mickey Roker and bassist/producer John Webber. Many records have paid homage to the Blue Note covers. This one seems to emulate the mockingly bad cover art of the early Prestige records.

The nonet recording features six Wess originals,” Lush Life,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” and “Sweet and Lovely,” which are arranged by Wess, Dennis Mackrel, or Scott Robinson. Wess’ playing here is more interesting than on Hank and Frank II and so are the arrangements. The variety of solo instruments and the timbral variety achieved from Wess, Robinson, and Ted Nash doubling various saxophones and flute creates a much more interesting palette. Wess is particularly strong on the slower tempo tunes; “Lush Life,” where he constantly references the melody without adhering to it, and “Dementia, My Darling.” It may be a cliché to state that ballad playing often improves with age but it is true in this case, and the quality of the arrangements and compositions seems to have inspired those involved.

Jones was 90 and Wess over 85 when these recordings were made. The quality of their performances and that of Roker , a mere 75 or 76 should serve to inspire any musician entering conventional retirement age and remind us that it is possible to age extremely well.

Originally Published