Pianist Jack Reilly writes from New Jersey:
One can tell it’s Ben after one note out of his horn. I had the honor of touring Norway with him for three weeks in 1971. He was a quiet man before and during the gig. However, after hours he never shut up! It was always about his old boss, Duke.
He taught me a great lesson about improvising. He said, “Tell your story in one chorus, man. Don’t play chorus after chorus”!
He was reluctant and afraid to return to the States because he said all of his friends who did, died soon after their return to Europe. When he did come back for some award and returned to Denmark, he died within one year. The word of his death spread so fast that I received a phone call within two hours of his passing. I immediately sat down and composed a tribute to this giant, a five part suite I titled, “In Memoriam Ben Webster”. When I put the last note to manuscript, I cried like a baby. Those 3 weeks with Ben were like three years of post grad studies. God bless his talent. He communicated like no one else I have played with before or since. His heart was three times as big as his overwhelming physical presence.