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Webster, Ben

Biography

Benjamin Francis Webster (March 27, 1909 – September 20, 1973), a.k.a. "The Brute" or "Frog," was an influential American jazz tenor saxophonist. Webster, born in Kansas City, Missouri, was considered one of the three most important "swing tenors" along with Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. Known affectionately as "The Brute",[1] he had a tough, raspy, and brutal tone on stomps (with his own distinctive growls), yet on ballads he played with warmth and sentiment. Stylistically he was indebted to alto star Johnny Hodges, who, he said, taught him to play his instrument. After Webster's death, Billy Moore Jr. created The Ben Webster Foundation, together with the trustee of Webster's estate. Since Webster's only legal heir, Harley Robinson in Los Angeles, gladly assigned his rights to the foundation, The Ben Webster Foundation was confirmed by The Queen of Denmark's Seal in 1976. In the Foundation's trust deed, one of the initial paragraphs reads: "to support the dissemination of jazz in Denmark". It is a beneficial Foundation, which channels Webster's annual royalties to musicians, both in Denmark and the U.S. An annual Ben Webster Prize is awarded to a young outstanding musician. The prize is not large, but considered highly prestigious. Over the years, several American musicians have visited Denmark with the help of the Foundation, and concerts, a few recordings, and other jazz-related events have been supported. Webster's private collection of jazz recordings and memorabilia is archived in the jazz collections at the University Library of Southern Denmark, Odense.

Featured Tracks




Recordings

Webster, Ben: At Montmartre 1965-1966

Never before released, this 74-minute CD contains 12 tracks recorded live during two gigs at the Montmartre jazz club in Copenhagen in 1965 and 1966. Except for one original composition by Webster, the repertoire on the CD consists of standards, almost half of which are ballads. A fine improvisator, Ben Webster nevertheless always sticks to the melody, throwing in his trademark tonal distortions and variations which includes characteristic ”growls”, ”shouts”, bent notes and his famous, airy ”whisper”. The two rhythm sections are comprised of three internationally-acclaimed Danes, one Swede, and the famous American pianist Kenny Drew. This wonderful CD serves to strengthen Ben Webster’s title as the ballad master of the tenor saxophone; check out his rendition of ”Someone To Watch Out Over Me”, for example.