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Hank & Frank II by Hank Jones and Frank Wess

In 2003, guitarist Ilya Lushtak founded Lineage Records in order to record surviving jazz masters as an inspiration for younger players. Lineage's first studio date featured two greats, octogenarians Hank Jones and Frank Wess, whose association dates back to the legendary Billy Eckstine big band. Hank & Frank, released in 2006, was reviewed earlier on this site. Hank & Frank II, from the same session, includes guest vocalist Marion Cowings. On both the quintet is tight, the music is inspired, and Lushtak fits right in with masterful guitar chops.

Wess and Jones are from a generation that could swing and play pretty at the same time which they do with the opener. an easy-swinging "Sunday." "Lord Prepare Me," with its Baptist beat, allows Lushtak to shine. Just listen to those just-so-right fills and accompanying chords by Jones as he works hand-in-glove with the guitarist. Wess is cool in his sinuous tenor exploration of "More Than You Know" and is also featured on Charlie Parker's "Chasing the Bird" and "Ill Wind" while Lushtak proves to be an equal partner on "Jordu," Duke Jordan''s catchy riff tune.

Enter Marion Cowings, who may remind you a bit of Bobby Short. He takes "When Your Lover is Gone" up tempo and leaves room on "I Had the Craziest Dream" for Wess to once again demonstrate his way with a ballad. Cowings is particularly creative in his personal interpretation of the lyrics and Miles's solo on "If I Were a Bell.". His remaining songs are duets with Jones. This medley includes original lyrics for Quincy's " Quintessence" and the highlight, Hal Schaefer's "The First Time I Saw Ella," a poignant memoir that salutes both Ella and Ellington. Jones again displays the accompanying skills that have benefited so many vocalists, including the First Lady of Song.

The album closes with "For All We Know (We May Never Meet Again)" and a bright version of "I'll Be Seeing You." Well, it wasn't goodbye. Those venerable gentlemen, Hank Jones (90) and Frank Wess (86), are still going strong, appearing at Iridium in NYC in March of this year (2009) with Lushtak, Rufus Reid and Willie Smith III. Check out the definition of "venerable." It means a lot more then "aged" or "elderly." And, above all, check out this fine recording.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Hank Jones and Frank Wess
  • CD Title: Hank & Frank II
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Lineage Records
  • Rating: Five Stars
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