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



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OSCAR PETERSON &
BEN WEBSTER

During This Time

Art of Groove MIG 80212

 

 

CD

1. Poutin'

2. Sunday

3. I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good

4. Perdido

5. Come Sunday

6. For All We Know

7. Cotton Tail

8. Ben's Blues

9. In A Mellow Tone

DVD

1. Poutin'

2. Sunday

3. I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good

4. Perdido

5. Come Sunday

6. For All We Know

7. Cotton Tail

8. Ben's Blues

In Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, when Bottom is trying to persuade his friends to let him play the lion in a play, he says “I will roar you as gently as any sucking dove, I will roar you an ’twere any nightingale”.

Tenor-saxist Ben Webster was able to roar as well as to play as gently as a young dove or a nightingale. Sometimes he growled; at other times he played so quietly that you can virtually just hear him breathing into the saxophone. Both these aspects of his skill are present in this excellent CD-cum-DVD. Both were recorded in December 1972 at the NDR Jazzworkshop in Hanover, and the recording quality is first-class.

The album which matched Ben Webster with Art Tatum is one of the finest jazz albums I know. So putting Webster with Oscar Peterson, who might be called a direct descendant of Art Tatum, ensures another marvellous album. This one was recorded in December 1972 at the NDR Jazzworkshop in Hanover.

As it happened, this is one of the last recordings that Ben Webster made, as he died in September 1973. But he shows few signs of age, apart from sitting down to play. His musical ability appears undiminished. He could still roar like a lion as well as playing with a breathy minimalism that suggested rather than insisted. A track like Sunday illustrates both aspects of Ben’s brilliance – and it also demonstrates Oscar Peterson’s handling of dynamics, as well as his impeccable technique.

But it is in such ballads as I Got It Bad and Come Sunday that Webster’s delicacy really shines. He seems totally relaxed, and adds subtle vibrato at the end of phrases. It is noticeable that these tunes (like three others on the CD) are from the Duke Ellington repertoire, reminding us of those glory days when Ben played for the Duke’s orchestra. Ben even reproduces parts of his classic solo on Cotton Tail.

The ever-dependable Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and Tony Inzalaco prove to be the ideal keepers of the rhythm. Inzalaco is an American drummer who may not be particularly famous, but it is our good fortune that he was in Germany playing for Kurt Edelhagen’s orchestra in 1972, which may be why he appears on this album. He is startlingly good: dispensing drum breaks that are cleverly constructed and which fit the number of bars perfectly (not all drum breaks do!). Hearing him, I wanted to see how he managed to create such enviable contributions. And my luck was in, as there is a DVD in this package, containing all but the last one of the CD’s tracks (a piano solo by Oscar).

The DVD helps you to see how the musicians generate their wonders. The camerawork is exemplary, although saxophonists might have preferred to see more of Ben Webster’s fingering. Thankfully the camera doesn’t jump about too quickly (the bane of some concert DVDs and most promotional videos). Oscar’s extraordinarily fast fingering indicates that the piano is virtually a part of him. Niels-Henning’s fingering is also exceptional: adding vibrato and bent notes for extra expression. And the drum breaks are clean and precise as well as being thrilling.

Superb!

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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