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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: Plays Ballads

This CD is made up of selected live and radio broadcasts with the Danish Radio Big Band and Swedish, British and Danish/American small groups during 1964-71. As the title indicates only ballads are included on the CD, and, for the first time on a Ben Webster ballad album, there is no string-section accompaniment. Three of the ten numbers are previously unreleased. The art of ballad-playing was all-important to Ben Webster. He once said “Remember, there are only three tempi in jazz – slow, medium and slow!” While all the tunes are ballads, the wide variety and constellations give a wonderful, multi-faceted sound-picture of Ben Webster.