Frank Wess is a true jazz master. After the first fledging efforts of Wayman Carver and Harry Klee in the ‘30s and ‘40s respectively, he almost single-handedly legitimized the flute as a swinging jazz instrument with the Count Basie Orchestra beginning in 1953. (About the same time Herbie Mann and Bud Shank started getting noticed, too.) The tenor sax-playing alumni of the Billy Eckstine and Lucky Millinder bands made prominent use of the flute in solos with the Basie juggernaut for more than a decade. He delved into bebop with stunning success on vibes master Milt Jackson’s great 1956 LP Opus de Jazz and as an in-demand freelancer in New York City. Going strong for decades now, Wess has made memorable contributions to Clark Terry’s big band, to the New York Jazz Quartet, to Dameronia (Philly Joe Jones’s Tadd Dameron tribute band of the ‘80s), and to collaborations with, among other notables, former Basie band colleague Frank Foster. Wess’s large discography, his earliest feature sides were cut for Savoy, include many gems. His exceptional flute graces, to name just two, Entre Nous (Concord Jazz, 1991) and Surprise! Surprise! (Chiaroscuro, 1995). Ali Ryerson’s star is high in the jazz firmament, soaring even higher with Flutology. Raised in a family of talented jazz musicians, she studied classical flute performance at the prestigious Hartt Schol of Music in Connecticut in the ‘70s while maintaining a special fondness for the jazz of Miles Davis and Bill Evans. After her studies, which also included mentoring with such flute experts as Julius Baker of the New York Philharmonic, Ryerson established herself as a premier jazz musician in both New York City and Belgium. She’s performed in the finest Big Apple jazz rooms, such as Birdland, Sweet Basil and Bradley’s, and she has showcased her vast talent at prominent jazz festivals in the States and Europe. Some of the notables with whom Ryerson has performed are Dr. Billy Taylor, Kenny Barron, Stephane Grappelli, Roy Haynes and Wess. She and guitarist Joe Beck have toured the world and recorded two albums together as the well-received duo ALTO. Ryerson has been recording since the mid-‘80s on American labels like Concord Jazz and Red Baron and on several Belgian labels. Just this year, she made impressive contributions to Broadway…Music from West Side Story (Stanza). Not least, Ryerson is involved in jazz education, fronting well-received Ali Ryerson Flute Master Classes around the country.
Holly Hofmann, currently residing in San Diego when not touring, began her studies of the flute in earnest as a young girl in the Cleveland area, studying with the first flutist of the Cleveland Orchestra, Maurice Sharp. Her deep interest in the flute continued at the Interlochen Arts Academy and through her undergraduate college years at the Cleveland Institute of Music and then through graduate school at the University of Northern Colorado. While proficient in both the classical and jazz genres, she has gained international notice for her work in jazz with the likes of Kenny Barron, Slide Hampton, Cedar Walton, Jane Monheit, and Wess. A career highlight, Hofmann traveled throughout the United States and Europe in the band led by string bass maestro Ray Brown in the last two years of his life. She also has worked as a duo with ace pianist Bill Cunliffe. As a recording artist, Hofmann has made her mark with a number of fine albums, the most recent of which is Live at Birdland (Azica) with Brown. Among her ever-growing legion of fans is the renowned saxophonist Phil Woods, who says, “Along with Hubert Laws, Holly is frankly the best jazz flute player today.” The Flutology rhythm section is stellar. Ben Riley was Thelonious Monk’s drummer for several years, to mention one highlight in his magnificent resume, and Peter Washington is internationally recognized as one of the best bass players alive for his extensive live and studio work. Mike Wofford also has impeccable credentials, his recording career dating back to the mid-‘60s and his service as pianist and musical director to Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald worth special mention.