Label: ORG – ORG116 / Verve MGV-8318
The concept of two tenor saxophone soloists performing in tandem, an approach that highlighted the contrasting textures of their styles, had its popular origins in the swing era. When the great tenors of that time had the chance to stretch out together in the LP format, the results showed not just how rich and individual soloists’ voices were but how deep a mutual affinity they could display.
Behold, then, this end-of-the-decade summit to end all summits: not just Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins, the two greatest surviving exponents of the tenor saxophone, but a third master, the tragically under-recorded Budd Johnson. The three saxophone masters, joined by the indefatigable Roy Eldridge, stretch out luxuriantly on the marathon “In a Mellow Tone” with spectacular results.
On this 1959 release, we hear Ben Webster with his idol Coleman Hawkins and legends Roy Eldridge (trumpet), Ray Brown (bass), and Jo Jones (drums). Tenor great Budd Johnson also appears here with the only other swing era tenor giant who is missing from this session being the inimitable Lester Young.
This famous release is a celebration of the saxophone and the jam session, which are staples in jazz. These musicians embark on a musical journey that is as exciting as it is adventurous. While the music sticks pretty much within the boundaries of mainstream jazz, it is apparent that these players are all inspired by their surroundings.
Much of the set showcases a blowing competition between the horns. They sometimes spurn each other on; other times, they act as foil. The result is a batch of tunes (five total) that really swing. Highlights include the intense “Young Bean” and “De-Dar.” On the ballad, “Time After Time” Johnson and Coleman sit out, leaving Webster to break our hearts all by himself.
Now in its definitive version on a numbered limited edition 180g 45RPM 2LP pressing mastered from the original analog tapes by Bernie Grundman!
Wow! Look at the front line of saxes! This early stereo recording happened almost by accident, putting the two oldsters who had really paid their dues together with the youngest of the trio, Budd Johnson, who even had one track named for him. Ben Webster had walked into a grill just off Broadway, and ran into Budd. He told him of the impending date in the studio with Hawkins and said “What are you doing at 2:30 tomorrow?” Johnson had no plans, so Webster said “OK, bring your sax and we’ll all be on the date together.”
This tenor summit took place in 1959, a very short while after the death of Lester Young. Ben Webster is joined by Coleman Hawkins and Budd Johnson, two of the remaining tenor greats of the time. Roy Eldridge is also along for the ride. The rhythm section consists of pianist Jimmy Jones, guitarist Les Spann, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Jo Jones. Except for the up-tempo numbers ‘De-Dar’ and ‘Young Bean,’ the mood is as bluesy and laid-back as can be. A 20-minute ‘In a Mellow Tone’ leads off the record, and interestingly enough, Brown, Jones, and Spann all solo before the first tenor giant, Johnson, takes his turn. Webster doesn’t solo until nearly sixteen minutes in. In fact, he solos last on four of the five tracks. But when you’re Ben Webster, what’s the hurry?
“Ben Webster and Associates is a 1959 session that took full advantage of the long-playing LP format. Highlighted by the 20-minute version of Ellington’s “In a Mellow Tone” in which tenor titans Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, and Budd Johnson plus trumpeter Roy Eldridge stretch out, not so much in a cutting contest as a laid-back jam session amongst friends. This summit meeting turned out to be a tribute to another tenor master of the same generation, Lester Young, who had died less than four weeks before this session. The chosen rhythm section of Jimmy Jones on piano, Les Spann on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, and Jo Jones on drums equally matches the performance of the featured horns. Also tackled for this session were three Webster originals: “De-Dar,” “Young Bean,” and “Budd Johnson” and the standard “Time After Time.” – Al Campbell, allmusic.com
“Wow! Look at the front line of saxes! …In spite of the tendency of early stereo sessions to be all left and right with a big hole in the middle, the three saxes are evenly laid out across the terrific soundstage. Theres little difficulty in identifying the unique styles of the three saxists. Ben was playing in the Ellington band when In a Mellow Tone was premiere in 1940. Its my personal favorite of the five tracks. Theres a knockout bass solo by steadfast Ray Brown, and Leslie Spann achieves Django-like octave playing on his great solo. Bens deep and rich solo near the end is something to behold.” – John Henry, www.audaud.com
“And the sonics What can I say? You can easily ignore the fine print on the album: Unfortunately, some technical defects made cannot be completely eliminated with diminishing parts of the music. Certainly couldnt hear a one in this 53-year-old recording… beautifully remastered at the ultimate two-channel format of 45 rpm vinyl” – John Sunier, www.audaud.com, 5 Stars!!!