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Big Ben: A Ben Webster Centennial Tribute

A tribute to Ben Webster, a tenor saxophonist who had one of the warmest, most identifiable sounds of any 20th-century jazz musician.

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Ben Webster's Stormy Weather Album Cover

Photo: Album Cover

This program features Ben Webster with singers such as Mildred Bailey and Billie Holiday, as well as recordings he made with Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Johnny Hodges, and several Webster leader dates too.

Tenor saxophonist Ben Webster (born March 27, 1909) had one of the warmest, most identifiable sounds of any 20th-century jazz musician. Pianist Jimmy Rowles once said that listening to him could make people fall in love.

Webster’s nickname, however, was “the Brute,” a tribute to both his tough, raspy attack on faster numbers and the volatile side of his personality.

This program features his appearances with singers such as Mildred Bailey and Billie Holiday, as well as recordings he made with Duke Ellington (whose orchestra helped catapult Webster to fame in the early 1940s), Art Tatum, and Ellington colleague Johnny Hodges, and several Webster leader dates too.

Watch Ben Webster and pianist Teddy Wilson perform “Old Folks”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQVVLAO-9LU

Music Heard On This Episode

Time After Time
Ben Webster — Ben Webster and Associates (Polygram, 2000)
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Time After Time
Ben Webster — Ben Webster and Associates (Polygram, 2000)
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What a Little Moonlight Can Do
Billie Holiday — Master Takes and Singles (Sony, 2007)
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For Sentimental Reasons
Mildred Bailey — Complete Columbia Recordings (Mosaic Records, 1936)
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All Too Soon
Duke Ellington — Never No Lament (RCA, 2003)
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Sepia Panorama
Duke Ellington — The Duke at Fargo (Storyville Records, 2001)
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Tea for Two
Ben Webster — That Devilin' Tune V. 3 (Music and Arts, 2006)
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Stardust (take 1)
Johnny Otis — Complete Ben Webster on EmArcy (EmArcy, 1985)
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Cottontail
Duke Ellington — Never No Lament (RCA, 2003)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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Chelsea Bridge
Ben Webster — Music for Loving/Music With Strings (Polygram, 1995)
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Just a Memory
Johnny Hodges — Side By Side (Polygram, 1999)
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Night and Day
Art Tatum — The Group Masterpieces V. 8 (Pablo, 1991)
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Body and Soul
Billie Holiday — All or Nothing at All (Polygram, 1995)
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Single Petal of a Rose
Ben Webster — See You At the Fair (GRP Impulse, 1993)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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