Granz was also behind Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson, which is part of a series of matching Peterson and his trio with leading tenor players. Other records in this series include Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster (Verve 1957), and Stan Getz and the Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve, 1957).
Ben Webster, who was equally comfortable growling through a bluesy stomp as he was churning buttery ballads, sticks mainly to the sensitive side on this recording. The opening track, “The Touch of Your Lips,” begins with a bouncy and excited piano introduction, setting the stage for a romping delivery. But when Webster enters, it’s clear he has different ideas. His tone, though full of his characteristic huskiness, is almost a whisper. His phrases are truncated and breathless sounding. He establishes an intimate and almost lackadaisical mood that is sporadically punctuated with growling bursts.
“Bye-Bye Blackbird” is stubbornly whimsical, but in a way that sounds as though sadness isn’t too far off. Webster’s solo begins as a melodic whisper, and, with the band’s support, grows in intensity gradually. His tuneful melodies become more rhythmically choppy, and he allows them to become misaligned from the beat.
With “How Deep is the Ocean” and “In the Wee, Small Hours of the Morning,” Webster’s playing is as vocally-oriented as is possible. On the latter, he plays nothing more than the melody, reminiscent of Frank Sinatra’s hit version of the song on the singer’s 1955 album In the Wee Small Hours (Capitol Records).
The most upbeat of all the tracks on Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson are the last two, “Sunday” and “This Can’t Be Love.” The former’s slightly fast tempo evokes the growls that are characteristic of Webster in his less somber settings. The latter, although not fast, has an aggressive drive that also brings out Webster’s gruff side. Peterson’s solos on these tunes, as they are most of the time, are playful and clean, with little surprises scattered here and there.
For classic jazz fans, as well as those new to the idiom, Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson is a must-have.
1959 on Verve Records
- Ben Webster – Tenor Saxophone
- Oscar Peterson – Piano
- Ray Brown – Bass
- Ed Thigpen – Drums
- The Touch of Your Lips
- When Your Lover Has Gone
- Bye-Bye Blackbird
- How Deep is the Ocean?
- In The Wee, Small Hours of the Morning
- This Can’t Be Love