Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Yawn, Ben Webster

The Quills--yes, the least suspenseful awards in recorded history--were dutifully handed out yesterday in a four-hour-plus ceremony. Dark horse winners included J.K. Rowling, Jon Stewart, and Stephen King. So much for populism. Meanwhile, we have the Nobel Prize announcement to anticipate tomorrow afternoon, but I may not offer the most punctual coverage: I'll be busy atoning.

On a more inspirational note, I spent an enchanted hour yesterday listening to Ben Webster Meets Gerry Mulligan, a 1959 summit meeting at which all the stars and planets aligned to perfection. Webster's breathy, emotive tenor is a treat in any context. But he found an ideal jousting partner in Mulligan, with a taste for gorgeous counterpoint and a ruddy tone to match his own. The first cut, "Chelsea Bridge," may be the most beautiful of Webster's many recordings of the Billy Strayhorn classic. But the other ballads are on par, while the midtempo pieces bounce along very nicely, courtesy of the blue-ribbon rhythm section (Jimmy Rowles, Leroy Vinnegar, Mel Lewis). If you don't own this CD, your life has a yawning hole in it, easily patched for a piddling $10.99. Don't delay!

Comments: and you're done.
I want to add to the celebration of this magnificent recording and to remind myself to put it into my ipod. Of the various Gerry Mulligan meets recordings that he made for Verve in the late 50's and they are all choice and include such brilliant saxophonists as Stan Getz, Johnny Hodges and Paul desmond, this is the creme dela creme and with Ben Webster meets Art Tatum, the magnificent Ben's greatest small group recording. It is also availble as a 2 CD set with even more alternates. The one CD is sufficent and wonderful music to listen to after atoning. I want to add to the praise of this amazing west coast multiracial rhythym section.
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