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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.

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Recordings

Webster, Ben: In Norway

In March 1970 Ben Webster was invited to Trondheim in Norway to play five concerts in three days, all sold out. The concert on March 17 was recorded, not by a record company but by private people. This unissued recording is now available in a re-mastered edition. Tore Sandnæs was the pianist in the session. Ben liked him because he was inspired by Oscar Peterson. Bjørn Alterhaug (b) and Kjell Johansen (dr) were two local musicians. He was very satisfied with the trio. The repertoire was mainly Duke Ellington compositions like “In A Mellowtone”, “Satin Doll”, “C Jam Blues” and “Cotton Tail” plus standards like “Star Dust” and “I Got Rhythm”.

Ben Webster was born in Kansas City March 27, 1909 and died in Amsterdam September 20, 1973. He is buried in Copenhagen. He came to London in December 1964 for a gig at Ronnie Scotts club and stayed in Eu- rope for the rest of his life. He was engaged at the New- port Festival but cancelled the date the day before he was supposed to arrive. He never came back to USA.