Ben Webster / March 27, 1909 - Sept 20, 1973

The great tenor saxophonist Ben Webster was one of the best and most influential of the old-school swing saxophonists, whether jumping or sweet. Coming out of Kansas City, he got some early pro experience with Budd Johnson (Lester Young was in the band), Benny Moten, Fletcher Henderson, Andy Kirk, Benny Carter and Cab Calloway before earning a chair in the Duke Ellington band starting around '35. Webster credits one of his bandmates with the Duke, Johnny Hodges, as being a major influence on him.

After a fight with Duke, he was given his walking papers in '43, and formed his own band, as well as working with Jay McShann, Raymond Scott and others. In '53 he linked up with pianist Oscar Peterson and Verve Records' founder Norman Granz for a fruitful stretch through the rest of the decade. He teamed with Coleman Hawkins in '57 for the classic Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster LP and then was working with Gerry Mulligan and backing Jimmy Witherspoon.

From '65 on he was living and playing in Europe, even reaching a status of much-celebrated musical hero of Denmark. He can also be heard on recordings with Dizzy, Lionel Hampton, Billie Holiday, Basie, Oliver Nelson and many more. As well, he was an able pianist and has recorded on the instrument.

Two legends together:

Tagged: Ben Webster, blues, Celebrate Icons, Coleman Hawkins, jazz, reeds

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