Ben Webster with Tete Montoliu Trio – Gentle Ben – Ensayo/Analogue Productions stereo-only SACD CAPJ 040 SA, 56.3 min. [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
(Ben Webster, tenor sax; Tete Montoliu, piano; Peer Wyboris, drums; Eric Peter, doublebass)
Ah, that unique, highly individual sound of Ben Webster’s sax, and nearly an hour’s worth of it—in top-flight SACD sonics yet! The original session dates from November of 1972 in Barcelona, Spain, and Ben is front and center thruout – his every note and breath standing out in 3D. Both the original recording job in Barcelona and the remastering by Kevin Gray and Gus Skinas are excellent, but that evidently wasn’t true of the original CD on the Spanish Ensayo label. It was done at the wrong speed— slowing things down to a dreary level.
This was the last year of Webster’s life; and a great place to spend it, although Amsterdam was his later home in Europe. He was visiting pianist Montoliu’s hometown at this time. Both players had known each other and worked together for many years. Montoliu feels this is one of the best recordings of his entire career. Webster’s special technique is honed to perfection and heard here on eight wonderful tracks, including four originals he wrote himself. There are some eight and nine-minute tracks, allowing plenty of stretching-out room, starting off with the opening “Ben’s Blues.” Ballads and blues were Webster’s forte, and this session is mostly exactly that. But he could also play in just about any other style. The last two tracks pick up the pace a bit but none of them wander far from the blues or ballad style.
TrackList: Ben’s Blues, The Man I Love, My Naphew Bent, How Long Has This Been Going On?, Sweet Georgia Brown, Don’t Blame Me, Did You Call?, Barcelona Shout.
This is another fine Jazz Dispensary anthology, just in time for Record Store Day 2022.