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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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Ben WEBSTER

Three Classics Albums Plus

AVID Jazz AMSC 1038

 

 

CD1
1. Tangerine; 2. La Rosita; 3. Cocktails For Two; 4. Shine On Harvest Moon; 5. You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To; 6. Blues For Yolande; 7. Maria; 8. It Never Entered My Mind
9. Prisoner Of Love; 10. Soulville; 11. Late Date; 12. Time On My Hands; 13. Lover Come Back To Me; 14. Where Are You
1-9: from the album `Blue Saxophones' rec. Los Angeles, 16 October, 1957; 10-14: from the album `Soulville' rec. Los Angeles, 15 October, 1957
CD2
1. Makin' Whoopee; 2. Ill Wind; 3.Fajista; 4. Chelsea Bridge; 5. Charlotte's Piccolo; 6. Coal Train; 7.; When I Fall In Love; 8. Ev's Mad; 9. Ash; 10. All To Soon ; 11. Love Is Here To Stay ; 12. It Happens To Be Me ; 13. My Funny Valentine ; 14. You're Mine, You
15. Sophisticated Lady ; 16. Love's Away
1-2: from the album`Soulville'; 3-9 from the album `The Soul of Ben Webster' rec. New York in July 1958; 10-16 selections from the album `Sophisticated Lady' rec. New York on 28 May, 1954* & 30 March, 1954
CD 1: [78:50], CD2: [77:55]
Personnel: on `Blue Saxophones':Ben Webster & Coleman Hawkins (tenor saxophones), Oscar Peterson (piano); Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass), Alvin Stoller (drums)
On `Soulville': Ben Webster (tenor saxophone), Oscar Peterson (piano), Ray Brown (bass), Herb Ellis (guitar), Stan Levey (drums)
On `The Soul of Ben Webster': Ben Webster & Harold Ashby (tenor saxophones), Art Farmer (trumpet), Jimmy Jones (piano), Milt Hinton (bass), Mundell Lowe (guitar), Dave Bailey (drums)
On `Sophisticated Lady': Ben Webster (tenor saxophone), Tony Scott (clarinet), Teddy Wilson (piano), Ray Brown (bass), Jo Jones (drums) and on some numbers 3 violins, viola and cello played by uncredited musicians. Also listed are: Billy Strayhorn (piano arr.), George Duvivier (bass) and Louis Bellson (drums). I believe these do not appear on these tracks but are on the three that complete the album that are not included in this set which may have been recorded on the above date *.

 

Just as Brilliant Classics is to classical music Avid Jazz is to jazz - great repertoire and fantastic value. Avid Jazz are particularly good at seeking out the real gems of `classic jazz' and cleaning them up and presenting them as they say `digitally re-mastered for probably the finest ever sound quality!' This 2 cd set is another fine addition to their ever burgeoning catalogue with one of the all-time great tenor sax players at the height of his powers. The first cd kicks off with a stunning set aptly named Blue Saxophones in which we are really treated royally with Ben joined by the other towering figure in the tenor sax world of the period, Coleman Hawkins, credited with virtually' inventing' the jazz style that suited the instrument so well, in the 1920s whilst playing with Fletcher Henderson's orchestra. The two of them create a wonderfully `fat' sound in some truly memorable tunes that are so gorgeous you are mentally transported to a smoky Los Angeles nightclub of the 1950s in a truly convincing way. The sextet is completed by four of the biggest names in jazz history with no less than Oscar Peterson on piano, Herb Ellis on guitar, Ray Brown, one of the greatest ever bassists and that keystone of the percussion section Alvin Stoller on drums. Highlights for me were the opening number Tangerine, La Rosita, Shine on Harvest Moon, Hawkins' own Blues for Yolande, Maria,where the two duet to perfection, and It never entered my mind in which the true meaning of blue is potently evident and as it is in the final number of the set, a beautiful rendition of Prisoner of Love. When I said that Avid represents great value this is exemplified by the fact that you don't just get a complete album but the disc is completed by five numbers from the album Soulville with the remaining two numbers from it beginning the second disc. This means that altogether you get over 2½ hours of great jazz for less than the price of one from any major label! Soulville is as the title suggests another nice dose of blues. The first and title track is superb and includes a wonderfully lyrical solo from Oscar Peterson who, along with Herb Ellis and Ray Brown, reappears on this album too together with Stan Levey on drums this time. Late Date begins with Herb Ellis setting out the blues stall and is soon joined by Peterson who has surely rarely played better than on this album though of course his standard was always as high as they come. It seems churlish to single any particular numbers out in this 2 disc set as it may imply they are better than the others - they aren't, since the entire total of 30 tracks are beyond praise but rather they stand as superlative examples of jazz musicianship that is peerless in its execution, imagination and sheer quality. As one might say "the best tracks are the ones you're listening to at the time". I loved them all but you see what you think. CD2 begins with Makin' Whoopee also from the album Soulville with Ill wind bringing up the rear. The disc continues with the album The soul of Ben Webster and the opener Fajista sees a more upbeat tempo than we've come to expect so far with a septet in which Ben is joined by fellow tenor sax player Harold Ashby with Art Farmer on trumpet, while the rest of the band is made up of Jimmy Jones on piano, Milt Hinton on bass, Mundell Lowe on guitar and Dave Bailey on drums. The second number reverts to the spirit of soul with a beautiful piece by Billy Strayhorn Chelsea Bridge. Charlotte's Piccolo is a fine example of Webster's compositional skills from among the eight that he wrote that appear on this set of discs and it gives a great solo to Mundell Lowe's guitar followed by a lovely one from Milt Hinton on bass. This is a long track by most standards lasting a fulsome 15½ minutes and allows for each musician to have his spot as soloist and there is a particularly fine example from Art Farmer, not to say from Ben Webster himself that closes the number. At the start of When I fall in love you can hear Milt Hinton behind Webster using his bow and I donít know about you but Iíd like to hear more bowing in soulful bluesy numbers as I think it adds another dimension. Evís mad brings us back an up-tempo example with some great guitar and the fast pace is maintained with the albumís closing number Ash with some great pianism from Jimmy Jones backed by Dave Baileyís finely measured drumming which is kept up when Mundell Lowe takes over from Jones followed by a duet between Bailey and Milt Hinton before Ben enters with another fine solo. What is always striking is the way in which each number is so complete in itself; a musical story beautifully told with perfect proportions throughout and which lacks nothing in the telling. The final numbers that close the 2 cd set are a selection of 7 out of 10 from the album Sophisticated Lady, subtitled Ben Webster with Strings in which 3 violins, a viola and a cello played by unlisted musicians accompany the quintet on some of the tracks. The albumís title track is especially fine. I think Avidís claim about the quality of the cleaned up version stands, particularly when you consider these tracks were recorded 57 years ago! I cannot recommend this 2 cd set too highly, representing as it does some of the most celebrated and talented jazz musicians of all time at their peak of creativity at a not to be missed price; in fact jazz lovers should check out Avidís complete catalogue for some fabulous jazz gems.

Steve Arloff



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