Wednesday, March 27, 2019

One Tenor: Ben Webster 110

The third and final of these consecutive megabirthday shindigs is here, with the oldest of the three and one of the fathers of modern saxophonism.
When it comes to today's honoree, we enter into that territory where they blow one note -- not even a phrase, but one note -- and you know exactly who is playing, 100% of the time.
Tutored by the alto deity Johnny Hodges, he is thought of as one of the formative musicians of modern jazz, and -- with fellow deities Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins -- one of the three foundational "swinging tenors" that birthed what we now think of as the modern approach to the instrument.
Possessed of an abrasive, crosscut saw tone on Blues and shuffles and a warm, grainily woodsy tone on ballads, he is a preternatural influence on masters from Sonny Rollins to John Coltrane.
Ah, that tone. It's almost like his ballad tone was made for film noir or something... if there's a more evocative, emotionally transmittive player in Jazz lore, I'd like to know who it is, please.
No, for real: you could be walking down the street with him in the headphones, and a normal everyday street scene is transformed into the opening credits from some 1940s potboiler detective film.
He was born this day way back in 1909 and would be 110 today, if people lived that long.
The truth is when you play like Ben Webster did, the numbers cease to matter and you get to live forever.
To celebrate this tenor's tenor, we have a swinging set from France Musique of him leading a quartet towards the end of his tenure.
Ben Webster Quartet
Studio 105
Maison de la Radio
Paris, France

01 Pointing Blues
02 I Got Rhythm
03 Old Folks
04 In a Mellow Tone
05 My Romance
06 Perdido

Total time: 53:02

Ben Webster - tenor saxophone
Georges Arvanitas - piano
Jacky Samson - bass
Charles Saudrais - drums

digital capture of a 2018 France Musique rebroadcast
I'm back Friday with the deep funk for yet another maestro milestone, as soon as I get under these cans and get the thing thanging.
Today, however, we tribute the forever tenor of Ben Webster and wish him, wherever he may or may not be, the very best 110th birthday a guy could have.--J.
3.27.1909 - 9.20.1973

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