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", 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.
This CD is a collection of classic melodies from the repertoire of Ben Webster’s famous employer of many years, Duke Ellington. The CD is compromised of three live radio sessions with the Danish Radio Big Band In 1969 & 1971, plus three live concert sessions with three different backing-trios (Finland in 1967, Denmark in 1969 and Sweden in 1972). Two of the tracks – with Clark Terry, Kenny Drew, Red Mitchell and Bobby Brooks – are previously unissued. Aside from one tune. All the performances with the Danish Radio Big Band are Based on Ellington’s original scores. The quartet sessions are also great, including two “reunions” – one with Ben’s boss from the early 30’s, Teddy Wilson, and the other with fellow Ellington alumnus Clark Terry. That Ben Webster was one of the undisputed jazz-greats on the tenorsaxophone- both in a big band and small group context – is amply demonstrated on this fine CD.