Ballads (2017)

Robison, Ronell, Rodgers, Traditional, Edwards, Hamilton, Carmichael

Ben Webster

The identification of Ben Webster with slow ballads is so natural that it’s surprising there have not been more albums like the present one. It seems the only previous ballad collections are Ben’s three albums with strings, which obviously constitute a special genre of “mood music”. The first of in fact was titled, with the naivety of the very early LP-era, Music for Loving.
This album on the other hand, represents much better the performances which were an essential part of Ben’s live repertoire. Selected from the typical saxophone-and-rhythm format of his European period (1964-73), it deliberately places together a series of similar tempos and similar standard songs, each played during a longer set of big-band music or of Ben’s ow group. Unlike the with-strings recordings, it throws a clear spotlight on this remarkable aspect of the saxophonist’s work.

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Ben Webster

Like Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, Benjamin Francis Webster, the third member of the classic tenor triumvirate, spent part of his musical apprenticeship in the ranks of the Fletcher Henderson band. A product of Kansas City, where he was born of February 27th, 1909, Webster came to New York in 1932 with the Bennie Moten band. He followed his stint with Henderson by spells with Willie Bryant, Cab Calloway and Stuff Smith, and then in 1935, began an association with Duke Ellington which continued, on and off, for more than ten years. Webster, the pre-eminent disciple of Coleman Hawkins, has that hallmark that distinguishes the great jazz performers from the simply good – an instantly recognizable style. While adopting the searing blowtorch approach of Hawkins on up-tempo numbers, Webster plays ballads in a highly distinctive way, attenuating the note values and following the sustained notes with a tremolo “wake” of exhalation. It’s a patented websterian flourish. Just as Lester Young made his principal mark with Basie, Webster established his reputation in the Duke Ellington orchestra, earning particular acclaim for his solos on the 1940 recordings of “Cottontail” and “All Too Soon”. Webster had an uninterrupted spell with Ellington between 1939 and 1943 and returned for a few months in 948. In between he freelanced around Kansas City in the fifties, toured with JATP and recorded prolifically for Verve with Coleman Hawkins, Oscar Peterson, Johnny Hodges and Art Farmer, among others. After a period of relative inactivity in the early sixties, he moved to Europe in 1965, settling first in Holland, then in Denmark. He worked in clubs and played concerts around Europe and in 1968 made a memorable date with Don Byas for the MPS label. He died in Amsterdam on September 20, 1973. Described by Barry Ulanov as one of “the warmest and most sensitive of performers”. He will be best remembered as a genuine romantic and a most outstanding interpreter of ballads.

Photo: from album cover Come Sunday

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Ballads (2017)

Robison, Ronell, Rodgers, Traditional, Edwards, Hamilton, Carmichael

Ben Webster

Digital Converters: Hapi
Editing Software: Pyramix
Mastering Engineer: Rene LaFlamme
Mastering Room:

For the recordings on this album, the original ¼” 15 ips CCIR master tapes were played on a Nagra-T tape recorder, modified with high-end tube playback electronics, wired from the playback head directly to a Telefunken EF806 tube, using OCC silver cable. The Nagra T, with its four direct drive motors, two pinch rollers and a tape tension head, has one of the best transports ever made. A custom-built carbon fiber head block and a head damping electronic system permit 2xHD FUSION to obtain a better resolution and 3D imaging.
The resulting signal is then transformed into high resolution formats by recording it in DSD11.2kHz using a Merging Technologies’ Horus A to D converter.

Andre Perry, Rene Laflamme.

Producer: Karl Emil Knudsen, Erik Moseholm
Recording Type & Bit Rate: Analog Tape to DSD256

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2XHDST1074: Ballads
00:42:25   Select quality & channels above
Tracks.
1.
Stardust
Carmichael
00:06:24   N/A
2.
Cry Me a River
Hamilton
00:04:14   N/A
3.
For Heaven's Sake
Edwards
00:07:50   N/A
4.
Greensleeves
Traditional
00:02:26   N/A
5.
My Romance
Rodgers
00:08:37   N/A
6.
Willow Weep for Me
Ronell
00:05:21   N/A
7.
Old Folks
Robison
00:07:33   N/A

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