Rifftides reader Bob Walsh writes:
Almost every review of GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK has applauded the rich tenor saxophone work of Matt Catingub on the soundtrack. But no one has mentioned that the work owes much to Ben Webster…and that Matt is the son of Mavis Rivers. (I saw them together at the Monterey Jazz Festival in the early 70s.)
Good points, especially the one about Ben Webster. I will dodge no opportunity to bring Webster to the attention of people who have not made his acquaintance. A good first step is to get his sound in your mind. Once you do, it is unlikely to leave. Follow this link for a short but complete sample of his tenor saxophone ballad artistry. Don’t bother clicking on the album cover you see there; it doesn’t take you to the album displayed, but the next Rifftides link does. The CD is Ben Webster at the Renaissance, in which he plays with Jimmy Rowles, Jim Hall, Red Mitchell and Frank Butler. Years later, when Ben was at a low point in his life and career, he said, “Why can’t I play with guys like that anymore?”
In Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of its Makers, I began a chapter called “Unabridged Webster” with this paragraph:
On the day my friend Swartz turned forty, he had a revelation. Entering my office at what for him was a gallop but for most of us would be a saunter, he announced that he had just heard on the radio a saxophonist named Ben Webster. He accurately described the fullness and the breadth of Webster’s tenor saxophone sound, his unmatchable phrasing, his gruff softness. Swartz added, with the sheepishness of one who realizes that he has just discovered something obviously long in the public domain, that there must be a lot of Ben Webster to catch up on.
It is nearly impossible to go wrong with a Webster CD. If you’d like to get started with him, here are three indispensable albums from among dozens available.
Duke Ellington:The Blanton-Webster Band
Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster
Ben Webster and Associates
Webster was born in 1909 in Kansas City, Missouri. He lived most of his final decade in Europe and died in Amsterdam in 1973.