Peterson • Webster: During This Time

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COMPOSERS: Peterson,Webster
LABELS: Art Of Groove
ALBUM TITLE: Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson
WORKS: During This Time
PERFORMER: Oscar Peterson (piano); Ben Webster (saxophone) etc
CATALOGUE NO: MIG80212

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These two giants of jazz knew one another well, having played together frequently since the 1950s, initially on the same ‘Jazz At The Philharmonic’ tours. But this set, beautifully recorded (and filmed) by German broadcaster NDR in Hannover in 1972, has a special poignancy: Webster died just months after, aged 64. Indeed, with Peterson respectfully shepherding the gruff tenor saxist through pieces that recalled his time in the Ellington band of the 1940s, the set is like a blue swansong.

By this time Webster had lost much of the familiar uptempo hustle and bustle, but his delivery on numbers like ‘Perdido’ retain what Philip Larkin lovingly described as an ‘accomplished negligence’. By contrast Peterson, then 47, was at the height of his powers, with a technique capable of blowing anyone off the stage. Here, however, the Canadian is all ears and it’s his harmonic, sensitive side that really impresses.

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Garry Booth