Ben Webster: Meets Oscar Peterson

Tenor pioneer avoided the chromaticism of Hawkins and the rhythmic freedom of Young, creating profound statements with a hint of a grace note


Ben Webster, along with contemporaries Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, was one of the giants of the tenor saxophone from the early days of the music. He avoided the chromaticism of Hawkins and the rhythmic freedom of Young for his own highly personalised style, creating profound statements with the merest hint of a grace-note.

There was also an economy in his performances creating the maximum of emotion from the minimum of notes. His distinctive vibrato which was a thing of beauty added lustre to his ballads.

The Touch Of Your Lips, When Your Lover Has Gone, How Deep Is The Ocean and In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning are all superlative examples of his lyrical craft on this LP reissue. Most of the other titles are taken at a gentle stroll except for Sunday, which glides along at 56 bpm. Even here Webster’s relaxed, always-in-command approach reveals him to be one of the great individualists of the tenor. Unusually for a Ben Webster date there are no blues selections or examples from the Duke Ellington songbook.

He gets superlative support from that Rolls Royce of rhythm sections the Oscar Peterson trio, with newcomer Ed Thigpen making one of his early recordings with the group. Peterson was one of Webster’s favourite accompanists and that master of subtle understatement Jimmy Rowles was another.

(1) The Touch Of Your Lips; When Your Love Has Gone; Bye Bye Blackbird; How Deep Is The Ocean; In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning; Sunday; This Can’t Be Love; (2) Ill Wind (36.11)
(1) Webster (ts); Peterson (p); Ray Brown (b); Ed Thigpen (d). Los Angeles, 6 November 1959.
(2) as (1) Stan Levey (d) replaces Thigpen. Los Angeles, 15 October 1957.
Wax Time LP 772326