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RCA Victor recorded Ben Webster frequently during the 1930s and '40s, but not as a leader. The breathy tenor sax giant is heard strictly as a sidemen on this gem-laden collection (which spans 1932-1946), and he's in some first- class company. More than half of the disc's 22 recordings find him in Duke Ellington's employ, while the others illustrate the fact that Webster also did some excellent work with Lionel Hampton, Benny Moten, Benny Carter and Rex Stewart. Webster shows how intensely he could swing on "Cotton Tail" and "Raincheck" with Ellington and "Toby" and "Lafayette" with Moten. But when Webster gets sentimental with The Duke on "My Greatest Mistake," "Chelsea Bride" and lovely "All Too Soon," we're reminded that none could play ballads more charismatically. Indeed, Cotton Tail 's ballads show us the real meaning of "smooth jazz"and it ain't Dave Koz or Kenny G.
Cotton Tail is essential listening. Period.
Reprinted with the permission of Myrna Daniels and L.A. Jazz Scene , the largest jazz publication in Southern California.