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March 27, 1909 - September 20, 1973
A 1964 performance featuring Ben Webster.
Ben Webster, tenor sax
Stan Tracey, piano
Ricky Laird, bass
Jackie Doogan, drums
Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1909 Ben Webster showed an aptitude for music early
After learning the rudiments of saxophone from Budd Johnson he began playing in the
Young Family Band that included Lester Young.
He joined the flourishing Kansas City jazz scene of the early '30s, playing with
Jap Allen; he appeared on his first record accompanying Blanche Calloway soon
In 1932 Webster joined Bennie Moten's Orchestra which by that time had come to
include Count Basie.
Ben bounced around performing with other bands before he joined the Duke Ellington
Orchestra in 1935. The saxophone of Johnny Hodges would have a major influence on
By the '40s Ben Webster had became Ellington's first important soloist on tenor
saxophone and appeared on many of the group's most memorable recordings. He left
Ellington in 1943 to gig on New York's 52nd Street with musicians including Jay
McShann, Jimmy Witherspoon, John Kirby, and Sid Catlett.
Following a brief return to Ellington's Orchestra in 1948 he continued to record
most prominently with Oscar Peterson and Coleman Hawkins and toured with Norman
Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic throughout the 1950s.
Webster moved to Copenhagen in 1964 where he passed his final ten years performing
and recording overseas with other American jazz musicians.
Considered one of "Big Three" tenor players along with Coleman Hawkins and Lester
Young he is remembered by his contemporaries as unparalleled at performing ballads.
"As for listening to other recordings - that's just about all that I do. I listen to
everyone. First thing when I wake up, I turn my set on.
"If you try all different styles that are in vogue, I think you con yourself. Me, I
just stick by my guns; I don't want to play out of another man's bag." - Ben Webster
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