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AOTM April 2023 - Ben Webster & Associates - Verve, 1959


mikeweil

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Ben Webster And Associates : Roy Eldridge (tp) Coleman Hawkins, Budd Johnson, Ben Webster (ts) Jimmy Jones (p) Les Spann (g) Ray Brown (b) Jo Jones (d)

 New York, April 9, 1959

26357-1   Budd Johnson 

26358-3   De-dar

26359-2   Young Bean

26360-3   Time after time (re,ch,bj out)  

26361-3   In a mellow tone

All tracks first released on LP Verve MGV8318.

CD reissue on Verve 835 254-2 in 1988.

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Listening to some Ben Webster during the last weeks, inspired by the thread on his music, I looked at my collection and decided to get me copies of the two Verve albums that were on my buying list for so many years. Ben Webster And Associates arrived a week ago, and I was mesmerized by the long opening track (actually the last one recorded at the session). The gang takes this Elington tune at a relaxed medium tempo, the rhythm section sets the pace, the three associate horns play the theme in unison while Webster answers them, and then they all play a solo, more or less in a reversed order. Usually the leader starts, but here they all set the mood for Ben, one by one, beautifully displaying their respective individual stylistics. Ray Brown takes the first, then Jimmy Jones mostly in single note lines, with  few chord punctuations thrown in, which lets you notice the relaxed walking bass with straight rhythm guitar and minimal drums. Les Spann is next, starting with octaves without too much resemblance to Wes Montgomery, followed by a fluid Budd Johnson  and a muted Roy Eldridge. Next, Coleman Hawkins raises the energy level just a little bit, with Jo Jones joining his intensity level. Jones then sets the stage for Ben Webster with a short, tatsteful drum solo. Webster starts tenderly, takes the longest solo before they return to the theme. To listen to all these masters using their skills for an amazing display of diversity is a masterpiece of taste and individual style. Where JATP tends to turn into cutting contests, this studio context inspired all to play their musical best, IMHO.

The other tracks are almost bonus material to this excellent studio jam, two blues type riff tunes with short solos, a great Webster ballad feature and the closer dedicated to his teenage friend. 

To these ears, total mastery. I could listen to this type of session for days and I am glad I finally got it.

What do you think?

Edited by mikeweil
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Mike,

I agree with your description and assessment of the side 1 track. Tremendous masters all in service of the song, and starting with the rhythm section grooving was an inspired decision. I don't know that I can think of any other such arrangement for a similarly long jam on a song.

I actually enjoy the second side tunes a bit more than you do(?), short(er) can be equally as satisfying and with a group like this ...

Now, my one slightly negative opinion which is entirely my own: I give 4.5 stars on the album as a whole, and the 1/2 star deduction is due to my personal preference for Sweets Edison over Eldridge. While he does not over-do it, a little of Roy's high-note runs goes a long way for me. There's something I find much more satisfying in Sweets playfulness, wit, his personality. And the Verve's with him and Ben as the front line are just fabulous.

Thanks Mike for starting this up, maybe others will be inspired to post another album and this short-lived tradition can be reborn. I might even think of one or two to suggest.

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I pulled out two other Verve albums combining Hawk and Ben earlier today, and they didn't quite give me what I expected and what this Webster album gave me. This is one of the best studio jams I ever heard. The other two are a bit more routine, although the saxists are excellent. And I must admit I prefer Jimmy Jones to Oscar Peterson.

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Edited by mikeweil
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On 4/12/2023 at 12:07 AM, Rabshakeh said:

An excellent record. Surprised that noone has mentioned Budd Johnson so far, as I love his solos on this one.

I tend to think he adds the extra spark that's missing on the two other Verve LPs pairing Hawk and Ben.

Edited by mikeweil
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  • mikeweil changed the title to AOTM April 2023 - Ben Wecster & Associates - Verve, 1959

BTW - I had overlooked that this subforum was changed to "Album of the Month" before it went asleep, so I changed the thread title accordingly. This gives us more time to discuss it.

Do you know similar studio jam sessions that go along at such a relaxed pace with similar results?

Would these meet my expectations? I only have the first with Charlie Parker in the Parker Verve box set.

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On 4/10/2023 at 5:24 PM, mikeweil said:

To these ears, total mastery. I could listen to this type of session for days and I am glad I finally got it.

What do you think?

I agree with you, Mike.  Mastery is precisely the right word.

From my point of view -- along with "Mellow Tone" -- the album's other high point is Webster's ballad feature, "Time After Time."  The way he caresses each note!  That couldn't be anyone but Ben.  

 

Edited by HutchFan
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4 hours ago, Rabshakeh said:

Having re-listened off the back of this, I find it interesting how "cool" the playing is from many of the participants.

I think that is one of the reasons, or perhaps the main reason for the success of this session. Yesterday I re-listetened to the first Norman Granz studio jam session with Charlie Parker, Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges etc., and it follows the scheme of the JATP sessions, mostly up tempos, a ballad medley for change of pace, and this leads to a cutting contest stereotype with flashy solos. Oscar Peterson also is a factor with his adaptable but rather formulaic approach with a tendency to display his technical prowess. Jimmy Jones on the Ben Webster And Associates session is totally different from Peterson in all ways. 

I just ordered the Harry Eddison album with Webster where Jimmy Rowles is on piano and am curious how much of a difference this makes.

On 4/11/2023 at 11:54 PM, danasgoodstuff said:

The backwards solo order on Mellowtone totally works - such a simple idea but genius.  I wonder if they tried it the usual way first?

I experienced the same thing when I played in a quartet of a singer backed by piano, bass, and me on percussion. We rehearsed Monk's Straight, No Chaser and it resulted in rather routine blues changes improvisations. So I suggested we change the solo routine: Intro with just walking bass and voice during the first chorus, conga and piano throwing in accents during the second, followed by the fours of voice and piano with the congas. Then the bass solo, then the voice scatting, the piano, and the end theme with the whole band. It worked wonders and during the first gig with this arrangement the bassist played his ass of. We all were alert as we had to pay attention to what comes next. 

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  • mikeweil changed the title to AOTM April 2023 - Ben Webster & Associates - Verve, 1959
6 hours ago, jazzbo said:

I'm not sure of a "bunch." Maybe 4 if you count the Mercury set and the Mulligan?

Looking on discogs, the series I was thinking of with the similar cover concepts seems to be the VE which can be seen here if you scroll down a bit

https://www.discogs.com/label/5041-Verve-Records?genre=All&limit=500&sort=catno&sort_order=asc&page=35

It seems to have started and ended much sooner than I thought but then again copies like the Ben Soulville were easy to find when I started my jazz odyssey in 1988.  I probably should have been clearer that I was thinking of a wider variety of artists than just Webster, although I do see three of his listed and they don't include the reissue of & Associates as And Friends.

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