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MUSICIAN Born:

Ben Webster

Ben Webster was considered one of the "big three" of swing tenors along with Coleman Hawkins (his main influence) and Lester Young. He had a tough, raspy, and brutal tone on stomps (with his own distinctive growls) yet on ballads he would turn into a pussy cat and play with warmth and sentiment. After violin lessons as a child, Webster learned how to play rudimentary piano (his neighbor Pete Johnson taught him to play blues). But after Budd Johnson showed him some basics on the saxophone, Webster played sax in the Young Family Band (which at the time included Lester Young). He had stints with Jap Allen and Blanche Calloway (making his recording debut with the latter) before joining Bennie Moten's Orchestra in time to be one of the stars on a classic session in 1932. Webster spent time with quite a few orchestras in the 1930s (including Andy Kirk, Fletcher Henderson in 1934, Benny Carter, Willie Bryant, Cab Calloway, and the short-lived Teddy Wilson big band). In 1940 (after short stints in 1935 and 1936), Ben Webster became Duke Ellington's first major tenor soloist

ARTICLE: INTERVIEW

Alex Clarke: She Does It Her Way

Read "Alex Clarke: She Does It  Her Way" reviewed by Chris May

Coming up fast behind the school of British saxophonists who emerged around 2015 is a younger group of players who are just beginning to get noticed. Among them is Alex Clarke, who was a finalist in Britain's public service broadcaster, the BBC's biannual Young Jazz Musician competition in 2020. In the televised final in November, Clarke ...

ARTICLE: YEAR IN REVIEW

2020: The Year in Jazz

Read "2020: The Year in Jazz" reviewed by Ken Franckling

The COVID-19 pandemic put the jazz world in a tailspin, just like the world at large, in 2020. And there is plenty of uncertainty going into the new year about what “new normal: might emerge from the darkness. International Jazz Day, like so many other things, became an online virtual event this time around. Pianist Keith ...

Rahsaan Roland Kirk: An Alternative Top Ten Albums Guaranteed To Bend Your Head

Read "Rahsaan Roland Kirk: An Alternative Top Ten Albums Guaranteed To Bend Your Head" reviewed by Chris May

Jazz musicians are rarely called shamanistic but the description fits Rahsaan Roland Kirk precisely. Clad in black leather trousers and heavy duty shades (he was blind from the age of two), a truckload of strange looking horns strung round his neck—two or three of which he often played simultaneously--twisting, shaking and otherwise contorting his body, stamping ...

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEW

The Michael O'Neill Quartet: And Then It Rained

Read "And Then It Rained" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

San Francisco area-based reedman Michael O'Neill, noted most prominently for his work with vocalist Kenny Washington, takes his artistry on a new tangent with And Then It Rained. The set features a top-tier Bay Area quartet which digs deep into a set of O'Neill originals. Recording-wise, this is new territory for O'Neill, who, in addition to ...

ARTICLE: RADIO

Be-Bop Django and a Whole Lot More

Read "Be-Bop Django and a Whole Lot More" reviewed by Marc Cohn

A show for you? Of course. We start with twenty-first century music from pianist Andy Adamson, trumpeter Farnell Newton, saxophonist Troy Roberts, and guitarist Jocelyn Gould. Not enough guitar? Well, Joe Pass plays Django Reinhardt, and then Django plays bebop from his last recording session before his death--quite a revelation if the only Django you've heard ...

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEW

Frank Basile: 2 Part Solution

Read "2 Part Solution" reviewed by Pierre Giroux

One might have expected there would be a plethora of baritone sax / tenor sax recordings following the standout 1959 Verve release Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster. Not so, although the two principals were involved in a follow-up album in 1960 for HiFi Jazz entitled Jimmy Witherspoon With Mulligan and Webster at The Renaissance. The Frank ...

NEWS: VIDEO / DVD

Videos: Three Ellington Reeds

Videos: Three Ellington Reeds

Duke Ellington was a tonal impressionist. Each musician in his band had two functions—to be able to play and to have a special sound. Taken as a whole, his orchestral pieces were like canvases, with different hues layered on top of each other. Here are three of Ellington's top saxophonists on solo showcases, providing an opportunity ...

ARTICLE: UNDER THE RADAR

The Rebel Festival

Read "The Rebel Festival" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

On the morning of July 4, 1960, there were more than a few signs of the mayhem that had taken place the night before in Newport, Rhode Island. Newport's Millionaires Row woke up to broken store windows, overturned vehicles, and storm drains clogged with garbage and beer bottles. One-hundred-eighty-two people, mostly young, New England college students ...

Impulse! Records: An Alternative Top 20 Zeitgeist Seizing Albums

Read "Impulse! Records: An Alternative Top 20 Zeitgeist Seizing Albums" reviewed by Chris May

There can be little argument that a jazz label ever captured a zeitgeist more completely than Impulse! did during its original 1960s incarnation. In the US, the fight back against white racism was cresting, opposition to the Vietnam war was growing, outrage over the assassinations of figures of hope such as President Kennedy, Martin Luther King ...


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