Monday, September 28, 2009

Ben WEBSTER - Soulville 1957 (REPOST)

Ben WEBSTER - Soulville 1957
Label: Verve
Reissued: 2003


On this 1957 date, Webster is teamed up with the great Oscar Peterson Quartet. Supporting Webster on each track, this music lays "in the pocket" (as musicians would say) quite well. Much of this is due to drummer Stan Levey's buoyant swing. Webster himself is heard on two simple blues numbers of his own penning including the title track and "Late Date." Other songs include the standards "Lover Come Back To Me," "Where Are You," and "Makin' Whoopee." Perhaps the most riveting tune on SOULVILLE, however, is the beautiful ballad "Time on My Hands."
Indeed, Webster is one of the most brilliant instrumental balladeers jazz has ever produced. No one can get that airy (even sultry) tone quite like Webster. Finally, as an intriguing bonus, we hear Webster perform three tunes in duet with Levey. Intriguingly, Webster plays piano on these tracks! Using an antiquated stride/boogie woogie style, Webster shows that his talent reaches beyond the saxophone.
From CD Universe.
The by turns grizzled and vaporous-toned Ben Webster really hit his stride on the Verve label. During a stretch from roughly 1953-1959, the Ellington alumnus showcased his supreme playing with both combos and string sections, swingers and ballads -- and lurking beneath his blustery and hulking sound were solo lines brimming with sophistication and wit. This 1957 date with the Oscar Peterson Trio is one of the highlights of that golden '50s run. After starting off with two bluesy originals -- the slow burning title track and the gutsy 'Late Date' -- Webster gets to the heart of things on five wistful ballads : Here, his exquisitely sly 'Makin' Whoopee' is only outdone by an incredibly nuanced 'Where Are You.' Providing sympathetic counterpoint, Peterson forgoes his usual pyrotechnics for some leisurely compact solos; his cohorts -- guitarist Herb Ellis , bassist Ray Brown , and drummer Stan Levey -- are equally assured and splendid. And ending the set with flair, Webster takes over the piano for three somewhat middling yet still impressive stride and boogie-woogie -styled numbers (these are his only piano recordings). Newcomers shouldn't hesitate to start here. [In addition to the three bonus tracks included with the original CD pressing, Verve 's 2003 reissue featured new liner notes and photographs, updated cover art, and a 24-bit remaster.]
By Stephen Cook, All Music Guide.
I accidentally lucked into the music of Ben Webster while sifting through the "W" section of some dusty used record bin years ago. The cover looked cool, with its classic profile shot of an unsmiling, world-weary Webster featured beneath the boldly printed title, Soulville. I impulsively bought the disc, took it home, and a few days later got around to playing it. Whoa! Had I stumbled onto something BIG. From that record on, I no longer thought of jazz as just another category of shopping music. Never before had I heard such soulful, sensual, bluesy sounds, and I haven't since. It was Webster's tough, raspy, growling tone that caught my teenage attention. The album opened with a pair of low-down and dirty blues, "Soulville" and "Late Date," which vividly conjured up romantic mental pictures set in black and white, after-hours clubs and smoke filled bars that I had only seen in old movies. Then I got my first introduction to a Ben Webster ballad. He was a master of the ballad, blowing with a distinctively breathy, warm-toned, soulful and sensitive voice. Like Billie Holiday, Webster could transform a corny ballad into a poignant work of beauty. On the lovely "Time On My Hands" and "Where Are You," Webster plays 10 notes when other sax men might have used 100, but all 10 hit you in your soul. Memorable stuff, especially for an impressionable kid. On this 1957 session, the great tenor-saxophonist met up with Oscar Peterson's group, which included bassist Ray Brown, guitarist Herb Ellis, and drummer Stan Levy. Their playing in support of Webster was incredibly sympathetic, with Peterson having the sense to reduce the quantity of notes he typically would put into his solos (with the exception of his snappy solo on "Late Date"). At the time, I didn't know that Webster was considered one of the "Big Three" of swinging tenors (along with Coleman Hawkins and Lester "Prez" Young). I also didn't know that his timeless playing was somehow considered out-of-style by the time he recorded Soulville. All I knew was that I couldn't stop playing track 6, "Makin' Whoopee," a song so supremely soulful that I still think it puts the classic Ray Charles version to shame. This music spoiled me. I thought all jazz sounded this good. I've spent years trying to track down other artists whose music could move me as profoundly as a Ben Webster ballad. I'm open to suggestions. For those who prefer to save some time, look no further than this album.
By John Ballon. AAJ.
Oscar Peterson- Piano (1-7)
Ray Brown- Bass  
Herb Ellis- Guitar
Stan Levey- Drums
Ben Webster- Piano,Tenor Sax  (8-10)
01.  Soulville (Webster)  8:03
02.  Late Date (Webster)  7:13
03.  Time on My Hands (Adamson, Gordon, Youmans)  4:16
04.  Lover, Come Back to Me (Hammerstein, Romberg)  8:26
05.  Where Are You? (Adamson, McHugh)  4:41
06.  Makin' Whoopee (Donaldson, Kahn)  4:29
07.  Ill Wind (Arlen, Koehler)  3:30
08.  Who? (Hammerstein, Harbach, Kern)  2:56
09.  Boogie Woogie (Webster)  3:06
10.  Roses of Picardy  (Weatherly, Wood)  2:05

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