Ben Webster - a rare and wonderful collaboration with MJQ

Ben Webster - a rare and wonderful collaboration with MJQ
Ben Webster – a rare and wonderful collaboration with MJQ

– Ben Webster With MJQ – Live At Birdland – Feb. 21-28, 1953 – WADO-AM –

Something not all that rare, but certainly noteworthy this week. An unusual pairing between Sax legend Ben Webster and The Modern Jazz Quartet. Recorded live at Birdland in New York City between February 21 and 28, 1953.

Why it didn’t happen before or again after this collaboration is a mystery, but it’s a wonderful match between the smooth and sultry sounds of Ben Webster and the luxuriant sounds of the MJQ. Before this live audience (which was broadcast), fans are knocked out, and one in particular gets very excited. The aircheck, done by a fan, is a little uneven in places. But that’s a small price to pay for an extraordinary mashup between two giants of Jazz in the 1950s.

In 1953, Ben Webster began his collaboration with pianist Oscar Peterson, who would be an important collaborator with Webster throughout the decade in his recordings for the various labels of Norman Granz. Along with Peterson, trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison and others, he was touring and recording with Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic package. In 1956, he recorded an album with pianist Art Tatum, supported by bassist Red Callender and drummer Bill Douglass. Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster with fellow tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins was recorded on December 16, 1957, along with Peterson, Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass), and Alvin Stoller (drums). The Hawkins and Webster recording saw the coming together of two giants of the tenor saxophone, who had first met back in Kansas City.

This recording has made the rounds, and no doubt fans of both Webster and the MJQ have it in their collections. No official release, but this has popped up around collectors circles and issued by various Jazz societies over the years.

Still, if you haven’t heard this before it’s essential listening, especially on a Sunday.

Enjoy.

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