Ben Webster at Montmarte: 1965-1966 collects previously unreleased live recordings made by the tenor giant in the legendary Montmarte Club in Copenhagen. The first nine songs were recorded on January 21, 1965. His band included the underrated hard bop pianist Kenny Drew and the solid rhythm section of Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen on bass and Alex Riel on drums. The songs were mostly numbers that Webster was very familiar with like "In a Mellotone" and "Cottontail," and while Webster's tone had been weakened by age, his melodic sense and amazing phrasing were still very much intact. It is a joy to hear him croon his way through a sultry version of "My Romance" or swing like a tornado through "In a Mellotone." Drew provides steady backing throughout and his solos are frequently breathtaking. The final three songs were taken from a May 12, 1966, date with Pedersen again on bass but Atli Bjorn replacing Drew on piano and Rune Carlsson behind the drums. Webster sounds quite a bit weaker; perhaps it was an off night, but he sounds like he can barely hold the saxophone up to his lips. The songs feature only a few bars of Webster anyway; most of the time is used up by the less-than-exciting soloing of the group. The light and dancing piano of Drew is sorely missed here. Still, the disc is worth pursuing for Ben Webster fans, if only to hear the first nine songs.
At Montmartre 1965-1966 Review
by Tim Sendra