Tenor saxophonist Ben Webster (born Kansas City, 1909) needs little introduction, Webster is regarded as one of the three foremost swing era tenor saxophonists – the two others being Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. His ballad playing and sound inspired such later fellow saxophonists as Archie Shepp, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Webster became famous for his unique sound, quick tempos, his solos that contained great virile rhythmic momentum, a rasping timbre and an almost brutal aggressiveness filled with growl, while his ballad playing was breathy, tender and sensual.
The list of his collaborations is long, Ben Webster worked, recorded and played with legends from the likes of Art Tatum, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Roy Eldridge and Dexter Gordon…but a dream came true when he was offered a permanent job in Duke Ellington’s orchestra where his personal style matured. Webster stayed with Ellington until 1943, after which he formed his own groups and played with other small ensembles. From 1952 on he spent his time between Los Angeles and New York playing, freelancing and recording with a variety of soloists, among them high-profile singers like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae and Frank Sinatra.
Despite excellent reviews of his albums, it was difficult for Webster to find steady work in the US during the early 1960’s, and when in 1964 he got offered to play for a month in London he accepted and sailed to England. Webster never returned to the United States. In Europe he found plenty of work, playing residences in Scandinavia, settled in Amsterdam (1966-69) and then in Copenhagen (where he even has a street named after him). He toured frequently, playing in clubs and at big festivals with local bands or with visiting American musicians.
Ben Webster suffered a stroke in Amsterdam in September 1973 following a performance in Leiden and died on September 20. Even when his health started to decline during his last years, his playing never did. To the last day Webster played with passion and intensity, delivering weight on every note.
Webster is the subject of two renowned documentaries and two extensive biographies have been published about his legacy. Responsible for a plethora of excellent recordings he remains THE best-selling tenor saxophonist in jazz. Ben Webster was one of those unique jazz musicians whose presence came through on every recording (He recorded for prestigious labels including Verve, Impulse!, Prestige, Reprise, Blue Note…and countless others.
On the album we are proudly presenting you today (Wayfaring Stranger recorded in 1970 by the NPS Radio network in The Netherlands) you will find mind-blowing high-quality Dutch sessions that were left dormant on a shelf and weren’t commercially released for over 30 years!
On ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ the listener is treated to no less than nine sublime tracks that document Webster’s trademark relaxed-swinging but imaginative playing style that never gets boring. The album features an all-star line-up from the likes of Rob Langereis (Toots Thielemans), John Engels (Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie) and Cees Slinger (Dexter Gordon, Slide Hampton).
Expect a 61-year-old Ben Webster in excellent form giving a warm, dusky, gritty yet funky performance where he delivers everything from up-tempo material, 12-bar blues jams to soulful expressive ballads. Webster’s quartet is in constant musical dialog with each other, creating a unique back and forth between musicians at the top of their game.
Tidal Waves Music now proudly presents the FIRST EVER vinyl release of this fantastic album (originally released as a limited Compact Disc edition back in 2000). This unique record comes as a deluxe 180g DOUBLE vinyl edition (strictly limited to 1000 copies) with obi strip. Released exclusively for Record Store Day Black Friday (UK & EUROPE) 2023 and available in participating stores on November 24, 2023.