Frank Wess is turning 90 this month and to celebrate, Dizzy’s Club paid tribute with a gig featuring the “Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars,” led by Roy Hargrove. The band featured some of the best musicians, younger and older, and was swinging like crazy. Jimmy Heath was in the sax section, if that gives you any idea.
The thing was that “All Star” as this band was, the audience was just as much so. At the table where Ivette and I sat (as guests of Frank Wess and Sarah) were Lew Tabackin and Toshiko Akiyoshi, Jerry Dodgion, Dennis Mackrel, and Ed Xiques. Sitting across form us was a man named Jimmy Fleet, the son of a Biddy Fleet, who not only taught Frank Wess in the late 30s, but Charlie Parker as well. Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes were a table over. Dave Sanborn was there the set before. This is an example of how musicians love to come out and support those who have helped create and shape this art form, be part of the connection to this rich history.
Frank Wess didn’t sit in the sax section, as he did for years as part of the Count Basie Orchestra, but was a featured guest, and came out and swung on three or four tunes. It’s amazing that at 90 he can still play both with the ferocity and tenderness he did fifty years ago.