domingo, 11 de septiembre de 2011

Ben Webster

Benjamin Francis Webster (March 27, 1909 – September 20, 1973), a.k.a. "The Brute" or "Frog," was an influential American jazz tenor saxophonist. Webster, born in Kansas City, Missouri, was considered one of the three most important "swing tenors" along with Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. Known affectionately as "The Brute", he had a tough, raspy, and brutal tone on stomps (with his own distinctive growls), yet on ballads he played with warmth and sentiment. Stylistically he was indebted to alto star Johnny Hodges, who, he said, taught him to play his instrument.
Webster learned to play piano and violin at an early age, before learning to play the saxophone, although he did return to the piano from time to time, even recording on the instrument occasionally. Once Budd Johnson showed him some basics on the saxophone, Webster began to play that instrument in the Young Family Band (which at the time included Lester Young). Kansas City at this point was a melting pot from which emerged some of the biggest names in 1930s jazz, and Webster joined Bennie Moten's legendary 1932 band that included Count Basie, Oran Page and Walter Page. This era has been recreated in Robert Altman's film Kansas City.
Webster spent time with quite a few orchestras in the 1930s, including Andy Kirk, the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra in 1934, then Benny Carter, Willie Bryant, Cab Calloway, and the short-lived Teddy Wilson big band.

Playing with Duke Ellington's orchestra for the first time in 1935, by 1940 Ben Webster had become its first major tenor soloist. He credited Johnny Hodges, Ellington's alto soloist, as a major influence on his playing. During the next three years he was on many famous recordings, including "Cotton Tail" and "All Too Soon"; his contribution (together with that of bassist Jimmy Blanton) was so important that Ellington's orchestra during that period is known as the Blanton–Webster band. Webster left the band in 1943 after an angry altercation, during which he allegedly cut up one of Ellington's suits.
After leaving Ellington in 1943, Webster worked on 52nd Street in New York City; recorded frequently as both a leader and a sideman; had short periods with Raymond Scott, John Kirby, and Sid Catlett, as well as with Jay McShann's band, which also featured blues shouter Jimmy Witherspoon. In 1948 he returned briefly to the Ellington orchestra for a few months.
In 1953 he recorded King of the Tenors with pianist Oscar Peterson, who would be an important collaborator for Webster throughout the decade. Along with Peterson, trumpeter Harry 'Sweets' Edison and others he was by now touring and recording with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic organisation. Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster with fellow tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins was recorded on December 16, 1957 along with Peterson, Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass), and Alvin Stoller (drums). The Hawkins and Webster recording is a jazz classic, the coming together of two giants of the tenor saxophone, who had first met back in Kansas City.
In 1956 he recorded a classic set with pianist Art Tatum, supported by bassist Red Callender and drummer Bill Douglass.

Webster generally worked steadily but in 1964 he moved permanently to join other American jazz musicians in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he played when he pleased during his last decade. In 1971 Webster reunited with Duke Ellington and his big band for a couple of shows at the Tivoli Gardens in Denmark and he recorded "live" in France with Earl Hines.
Webster died in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in 1973 and was buried in the Assistens Cemetery in the Nørrebro, Copenhagen. Although not all that flexible or modern, remaining rooted in the blues and swing-era ballads, Webster could swing with the best and his tone was a later influence on such diverse players as Archie Shepp, Lew Tabackin, Scott Hamilton, David Murray, and Bennie Wallace.

Ben Webster (Kansas City, 27 de marzo de 1909 - Copenhagen, 20 de septiembre de 1973) fue un saxofonista (tenor) estadounidense de jazz. Está considerado como uno de los "big three" (tres grandes) saxofonistas tenores del swing, junto con Coleman Hawkins (su principal influencia) y Lester Young.
Recibió lecciones de violín en su infancia, para posteriormente aprender a tocar el piano gracias a Pete Johnson que le enseñó a tocar blues; tocaría el piano para películas mudas en Amarillo (Texas). Estudió música en la Universidad de Wilberforce.
Budd Johnson, después, le inició en el saxofón. Aunque su aprendizaje del saxofón fue relativamente tardío, a partir de 1930, eso no le impidió hacerse conocido progresivamente en las orquesta del suroeste de músicos como Gene Coy, Jap Allen, Blanche Calloway y la Young Family Band (donde recibió varias lecciones de Lester Young y su padre). En 1931, se unió a la orquesta de Benny Moten y tocó en temas como "Lafayette" y "Moten Swing". Durante los años treinta tocó también con las big bands de Andy Kirk, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter, Willie Bryant, Cab Calloway y Teddy Wilson.

El momento más importante en la carrera musical de Webster se produjo en 1940 cuando se incorporó a la orquesta de Duke Ellington para convertirse en el primer saxofonista importante de la misma, llegando a desempeñar un papel crucial en muchas de las obras clásica de Ellington en esa etapa como "Cotton Tail", "Conga Brava" y "All Too Soon". Además, superando la percepción que se tenía de él como un clon de Coleman Hawkins, encontró su propia voz moviéndose siempre entre un estilo arrebatado y otro romántico, con un inconfundible timbre chillón y usando con frecuencia el vibrato. Estuvo con Ellington durante tres años.
En lo personal, se hizo conocido por su oscilaciones de carácter debidas a su afición al alcohol.
Desde 1944, lideró sus propios grupos y trabajó también para otros músicos como Raymond Scott, John Kirby, Sid Catlett y Stuff Smith. Se volvió a juntar con Ellington en 1948-1949, realizó giras con Jazz At The Philharmonic en los cincuenta y trabajó más tarde acompañando en el estudio a cantantes como Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald y Carmen McRae.
En 1964 Webster se trasladó a Copenhagen, desde donde empezó a trabajar por toda Europa, tocando en clubes y festivales con distintos músicos.
En 1974, Webster fue elegido por los críticos para entrar en el Down Beat Hall of Fame.

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