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UPC - 660652902024
Ben Webster - Gone With The Wind

Release Date - Jun, 2000
$14.98

Perdido - 7.17
Yesterdays - 7.09
I'M Gonna Sit Right Down - 5.57
Set Call - 3.05
Sunday - 4.08
That'S All - 6.15
Gone With The Wind - 5.50
Over The Rainbow - 5.36
Indiana - 5.53
Misty - 3.34
Set Call - 3.38

Although the record books show that Ben Webster spent a comparatively short period of his life with the Duke Ellington Band those brief years made a big impression on him. In turn they branded him forever as an ex-Ellingtonian although many others (Jimmy Hamilton and Paul Gonsalves to name two) spent more time in Duke's service. Ben joined the band, officially, in February 1940 (although he had played on a few record dates with the orchestra in both 1935 and 1936); he left on August 13,1943 and the manner of his going seemed to be in keeping with this larger-than-life jazz legend. Rumor has it that the day immediately prior to his dismissal he had been playing piano with the band during a booking at the 'Hurricane Club'ù in New York when Ellington appeared on stage and demanded to take his place on the piano bench. Ben refus ed to budge and continued at the keyboard. Ellington, never a man to get involved in a fracas if it could be avoided, suggested that Ben call at the Ellington apartment the following day to discuss the matter. The next day Ben dutifully put in an appearance but Duke was not there. While waiting for his employer to turn up Webster took the opportunity of trying on some of Ellington's more elegant and expensive clothes from his wardrobe. Inevitably Duke arrived while the portly Ben was arrayed in some of Ellington's finest gear and anyone familiar with the relative physical sizes of the two men will see the humor of the situation. It was the end of a 3 1/2 year association and Ben, back in his own clothes, left to form a small group of his own, one which had a youthful Tony Scott on clarinet, incidentally. That story strikes me as wholly typical of the lovable, fallible, often frustrating man who was Benjamin Franklin Webster. It is some measure of the Duke's forgiveness that he had Ben back in his band again for a time in 1948 and 1949 as well as subsequent guest appearances at festivals. Ben, for his part, went through life as a wholly dedicated Ellington fan, avidly collecting the Duke's records and generally committing them to tape. I played a very small part on one occasion when I arranged for him to get a copy of a British television soundtrack of Duke's band and others, which I know, helped to fill out his Ellington and stride piano collection. Towards the end of 1964 things seemed to have run their course for him in the United States; the last of his close relatives died and a booking came up in London. He packed his records, tapes, saxophone, etc. and sailed for Europe, never to return to the country of his birth. He died in Amsterdam on Thursday, September 20, 1973 at the age of 64. He had been playing in public literally only a matter of hours earlier. Early on in his European period, in fact shortly after his London booking, he appeared in Denmark at Copenhagen's 'Montmartre Jazzhus'ù and Alan Bates was on hand to record him there. During the night of Saturday and Sunday, January 30/31, 1965, Ben plus the Alex Riel Trio played three sets and 1201 Music has now reassembled these in chronological order. Perdido, by Ben's one time colleague Juan Tizol, is a reminder of the Ellington days; Webster takes this at a restrained pace and closes with the paraphrase which trumpeter Benny Harris devised and called Wahoo. Yesterdays is another beautiful and soulful ballad, spun out over seven minutes and with Ben lingering over the phrases like a true connoisseur of pure melody. I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter is a tune which Fats Waller often used to play, although he did not write it. Fats was a great favorite of Ben's and at the drop of a hat Webster would sit at the piano himself. When Nat Pierce was touring Europe with the Buddy Tate band in the summer of 1970 he met Ben and asked him if he had ever recorded any piano solos. A year later without warning or covering letter, a spool of tape arrived at the Tate home. When Nat put it on the machine Ben's unmistakable voice called out, 'Hello Nat Pierce, you old mother!'ù then followed some driving, not too accurate but hugely enjoyable stride piano including a version of You're Driving Me Crazy. Sunday has solos all around and an infectiously swinging introduction from the superb rhythm section. For the next tune Ben is at his most mellow, easing into That's All and creating a reflective mood which the excellent Kenny Drew continues in his solo. And also listen for those double-stopped descending bass lines laid down by Nils-Henning *òrsted Pederson. For his final half chorus Webster moves up into the alto register, sounding uncannily like Benny Carter complete with terminal vibrato. Gone With The Wind hits an ideal tempo from bar one and all the soloists are in peak form. Ben roughens up his tone towards the end during the vamp coda. Over The Rainbow is played at a tempo (fourteen bars to the minute) which in the hands of less experienced players might have resulted in the musical equivalent of a slow death. In fact the two choruses which go to make up these five-and-a-half minutes of magic form a text book example of creativity in ballad form. Listen for Ben's instructions to the rest of the band during the performance. The tempo goes up for Indiana with Webster generating some self-propelling phrases at the beginning of the second chorus. Misty, the late Erroll Garner's beautiful song, consists of just one chorus and you can hear the notes dying away in the bell of the saxophone leaving just the sound of air vibrating. So ends a most productive set of one of jazz's saxophone giants. To play this album through is a stimulating experience and a good way to get to know Ben Webster, the musician. A law unto himself? Yes. Duke once wrote of him, 'òthe last time I saw Ben was in Europe. He proudly showed me a photograph of himself on skis, but one thing about it struck me as a little strange. 'How is it Ben,'ù I asked 'that your skis are pointing up the mountain?'ù ' Perhaps he was trying on someone else's equipment. Alun Morgan 1. Perdido time 7:22 Tizol,Drake and Lengsfelder 2. Yesterdays time 7:12 Kern and Harbach 3. I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter time 5:57 Young and Ahlert 4. Set Call time 3:02 Webster 5. Sunday time 4:10 Miller, Cohn, Stein and Kruger 6. That's All time 6:15 Haynes and Brandt 7. Gone With The Wind time 5:51 Magidson and Wrubel 8. Over The Rainbow time 5:38 Arlen and Harburg 9. Indiana time 5:52 Hanley and McDonald 10. Misty time 3:35 Garner and Burke 11. Set Call time 3:35 Webster Ben Webster tenor saxophone Kenny Drew piano Nils-Henning *òrsted Pederson bass Alex Riel drums Recorded live at the Montmartre Jazzhus Copenhagen January 31, 1965 by courtesy of Herluf Kamp Larsen Recording Engineer Birgir Svan Produced by Alan Bates Sleeve photograph by Fred Warren Design and layout by This compilation: ¬© Phonoco International Ltd 1989 P Phonoco International Ltd. 1989


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