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Oleander Nr. 10 December 2011

Passion for Music & Lifestyle


Ben Webster The Sound of his Soul

Music & Visual Arts

Lifestyle & Fashion

Culinary & Travel

Passion for Music & Lifestyle

M A G A Z I N E Is a creation by

Boni Li-A-Sam

Welcome to the 10th edition of Oleander Magazine. The very last edition of 2011 In this edition I would like to share the lyrical sound of Ben Webster, who lived in my hometown Amsterdam for several years before he passed away overthere in 1973.

Listening to the beauty of his legato tone, his use of dynamics and the pace and space of his phrasing all together, has given me a new musical experience at age 15 and touched me deeply. My ultimate love for playing ballads was born... Enjoy!

Benjamin Francis Webster Kansas City, March 27, 1909 Amsterdam, September 20, 1973

Ben Webster - What is this thing called love

Me and my Saxophone in 1981 Before I studied the piano, I was very interested in playing the saxophone. Especially the pyrotechnics of Charlie 'Bird' Parker had my fullest interest. Therefore I bought myself an Alto Saxophone at age15 and learned to play it myself by playing along with his records. I also played in public in the canteen of my school during intermissions and daring to play in a jazz quintet for a short period of time...

And one day I purchased a record of Tenor Saxophonist Ben Webster. When I heard the only ballad on that record I was immediately overwhelmed by the beautiful Natural Organic Deepness of his Sound. I felt that he had the ability to translate the very essence of his Inner Being into the sound on his instrument. Something very rare for an instrumentalist to be able to achieve.

Ben Webster can really tell a story as if he speaks directly to you with his own voice. His instrument is a true extension of his inner emotional world, reflecting the ‘Sound of his Soul’. This is the ballad from my very first record of Ben Webster that changed my inner relation to music forever: Less is More...


VIDEO Ben Webster Someone To Watch Over Me

Top Photo - Ben Webster in Copenhagen, Denmark: from left to right: Alex Riel drums - Kenny Drew piano - Ben Webster tenorsax and Niels-Henning Ă˜rsted Pedersen bass. (Photo: Jan Persson 1965)

VIDEO Ben Webster Rehearsal in Holland

Ben Webster walking at the Rokin in Amsterdam 1966

VIDEO Ben Webster Somewhere over the Rainbow

VIDEO Ben Webster & Oscar Peterson

I Got it Bad and That Ain't Good



BIOGRAPHY Benjamin Francis Webster, 27 March 1909, Kansas City, Missouri, USA, d. 20 September 1973, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. After studying violin and piano, and beginning his professional career on the latter instrument, Webster took up the tenor saxophone around 1930. He quickly became adept on this instrument; within a year he was playing with Bennie Moten and laterr worked with Andy Kirk and Fletcher Henderson. In the mid-30s he also played briefly with numerous bands mostly in and around New York, including spells with Duke Ellington. In 1940 he became a permanent member of the Ellington band, where he soon became one of its most popular and imitated soloists. Although he was with the band for only three years, he had enormous influence upon it, both through his presence, which galvanized his section-mates, and by his legacy. Thereafter, any new tenor saxophonist felt obliged to play like Webster until they were established enough to exert their own personalities. After leaving Ellington, he led a small group for club and record sessions and also played with several small groups led by artists such as Stuff Smith and Henry ‘Red’ Allen. In the late 40s he rejoined Ellington for a short stay, then played with Jazz At The Philharmonic created by impresario Norman Granz.

Cotton Tail- Duke Ellington Orchestra 1941

From the 50s and on throughout the rest of his life, he worked mostly as a single, touring extensively, especially to Europe and Scandinavia where he attained great popularity.

He was briefly resident in Holland before moving to Denmark, where he lived for the rest of his life. He recorded prolifically during his sojourn in Europe, sometimes with just a local rhythm section, occasionally with other leading American jazz musicians, among them Bill Coleman and Don Byas. Like so many tenor players of his generation, Webster’s early style bore some of the hallmarks of Coleman Hawkins; but by the time of his arrival in the Ellington band in 1940, and his first important recording with them, ‘Cottontail’, he was very much his own man. His distinctive playing style, characterized by a breathy sound and emotional vibrato, became in its turn the measure of many of his successors. A consummate performer at any tempo, Webster’s fast blues were powerful and exciting displays of the extrovert side of his nature, yet he was at his best with slow, languorous ballads, which he played with deeply introspective feeling and an often astonishing sensuality. This dichotomy in his playing style was reflected in his personality, which those who worked with him have described as veering between a Dr. Jekyll-like warmth and a Mr Hyde-ish ferocity. One of the acknowledged masters of the tenor saxophone, Webster made innumerable records, few of them below the highest of standards. As the years passed, he favoured ballads over the flag-wavers that had marked his younger days. From his early work with Ellington, through the small group sides of the 40s, a remarkable set of ballad duets with Hawkins, to his late work in Europe, Webster’s recorded legacy is irrefutable evidence that he was a true giant of jazz.

VIDEO Duke Ellington - It don't Mean a Thing (1943)

VIDEO Duke Ellington Orchestra & Ben Webster I Got it Bad and That Ain't Good

Mentor Johnny Hodges

Stylistically Ben Webster was indebted to alto star Johnny Hodges, who, he said, taught him to play his instrument. Johnny Hodges has the most beautiful lyrical and dynamical sound ever produced on an Alto Sax.

VIDEO Duke Ellington Orchestra & Johnny Hodges All Of Me

VIDEO Duke Ellington Orchestra & Johnny Hodges Isfahan

VIDEO Duke Ellington Orchestra & Johnny Hodges All Of Me (2) at The Concertgebouw Amsterdam 1958

Oleander Magazine - Nr. 10 December 2011  
Oleander Magazine - Nr. 10 December 2011  

Ben Webster - The Sound of his Soul