Ben Webster

Benjamin Francis Webster was born in Kansas City, Missouri, March 27th 1909, and died in Amsterdam September 20th 1973.

After grounding on violin he took to piano naturally, Pete Johnson (a neighbour) taught him how to play the blues and soon after Webster was playing for silent movies in Amarillo, Texas. Here, one night, he met Budd Johnson, who showed him the scale of C on saxophone - Webster had been intrigued with Frankie Trumbauer's "Singin' the Blues" - and not long after he was playing saxophone in the Young Family Band (Lester Young and his father supplied more tips). He worked his way through many bands after leaving Young, including Gene McCoy, Jap Allen, Blanche Calloway (where Johnny Hodges heard him first), Bennie Moten (where he became the featured soloist - "Lafayette" and "Moten Swing" first helped get him recognized), Andy Kirk, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter, Willie Bryant, Cab Calloway, Teddy Wilson and then in 1940 he joined Duke Ellington (the first major tenor saxophonist to do so). Baritone saxophonist Harry Carney said "Ben brought a new life to a section that had been together a long time, he was inspired and he inspired us so that we worked together". Webster stayed with Ellington for three years producing such masterpieces as "All Too Soon" and "Cottontail". He left the band because one night he had been allowed to play piano with the band, stayed too long at the keyboard, and when the Duke took offence and refused to discuss the matter, Ben cut one of Ellington's best suits to bits.

After working (1944) with such leaders as Raymond Scott, John Kirby, Sid Catlett and Stuff Smith he started to lead his own groups up and down SWING STREET in New York City, actually rejoined Duke Eflington for almost a year and then became a member of the Jazz at the Philharmonic.

Working both in New York and the West Coast he finally (1964) decided to move to Europe where he worked continually until his death.

Regular recordings out of Sweden showed that Webster's late music had lost none of its passion and intensity. (check out "No Fool, No Fun" a 1970 session for the Spotlite label for proof of this statement).

Recommended recordings:"Ben Webster and Associates"Verve 835254-2
"The Soul of Ben Webster"Verve 2-314-527474-2
"Ben Webster/Buck Clayton"Sackville SKCD2-2037
"Ben Webster/Oscar Peterson"Verve 829167-2
"See you at the Fair"GRP GRD- 121