Ben Webster

100 Years

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Ben Webster was never a particularly innovative or experimental tenor sax player, so he often gets overlooked when discussions turn to the greatest sax players of the 20th century, but he could do two things as well as anyone who ever picked up the instrument. He could blow rough and raspy and he could go sweet as fresh sugar on a ballad until one would swear the whole world was weeping. Webster didn't expand, deconstruct, and re-form melodies; he simply made them speak in a way that made the heart swell. And luckily, he recorded a lot, which makes sets like this one possible. Divided into two discs, one featuring Webster's powerful, rough side and the other his aching, honey-filled ballad side (with a little bit of Webster at the piano as well), this little box set, released to honor the 100th anniversary of Webster's birth, makes for a fascinating late-career portrait of this delightful player, catching him in all of his styles, swinging, roaring, and sighing by turns.

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