Wayfaring Webster

Ben Webster Quartet

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Wayfaring Webster Review

by Alex Henderson

If you were to look through the jazz libraries of major radio stations in Europe, you would find a lot of high-quality live performances that have never been released commercially. But thankfully, some of those recordings eventually end up coming out on small European jazz labels. A perfect example is Wayfaring Webster, which boasts a Ben Webster set that went unreleased for 30 years. The concert was recorded live in the Netherlands on September 2, 1970, and that recording was played on Dutch radio the following month -- however, it wasn't until late 2000 that the performances became commercially available thanks to Challenge's Daybreak label. Backed by pianist Cees Slinger, bassist Rob Langereis, and drummer John Engels, a 61-year-old Webster is in excellent form during a concert that includes warm, swinging performances of "Sunday," Juan Tizol's "Perdido," and the dusky "Poutin'." As gritty and funky as he was on up-tempo material and 12-bar blues items, he could be quite sentimental on ballads -- and true to form, his ballad playing is as soulful and expressive as ever on "My Romance," "How Long Has This Been Going On," and Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge." This concert doesn't offer many surprises; at 61, the breathy tenor man had nothing left to prove and excelled by sticking with what had worked so well for him in his younger days. Although it falls short of essential, Wayfaring Webster is a fine CD that Webster's serious fans will appreciate.

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