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Pioneering Basie Band Regular Frank Wess Dies at 91

Jazzed Magazine • News • November 7, 2013

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Influential saxophonist and flutist Frank Wess, who performed with the Count Basie Orchestra throughout the ’50s and ’60s,  died last week in Manhattan at the age of 91.  Sources say the cause of death was heart attack related to kidney failure.

Mr. Wess popularized the use of the flute in jazz thanks to rich and skillful flute solos, which gathered steam during his tenure with Basie’s ensembles. Wess was in fact studying flute at the Modern School of Music in Washington when he was hired by Basie in 1952, at a time when Basie had begun showcasing new compositions and arrangements by Neal Hefti (an era of the band that became known as Basie’s “New Testament” band).

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