BEN WEBSTER/ JOE ZAWINUL: SOUL MATES
BEN WEBSTER QUARTET
Ben Webster (ts) Joe Zawinul (p) Richard Davis (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs)
NYC; September 20, 1963
Too Late Now (take 1)
Too Late Now (take 3) (6:26) RM(S9)-476
Come Sunday (take 4)
Come Sunday (take 5) (5:10) -
Travelin’ Light (6:08) -
Like Some in Love (3:45) -
BEN WEBSTER QUINTET
Thad Jones (cnt) Ben Webster (ts) Joe Zawinul (p) Sam Jones (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs)
NYC; October 14, 1963
Soul Mates (6:32) RM(S9)-476
Flog Legs (take 4)
Flog Legs (take 5) (5:29) -
The Governor (3:13) -
In Walked Love
Evol Deklaw Ni (5:20) -
This album came into being because the paths of two richly talented musicians crossed for a while. It helps to prove just how ridiculous it is to type-cast people into styles, “schools” or periods of time. This of course is something that has been proven and re-proven so often that only those who really don’t want to admit it can still deny it. But as long as meetings like this can produce so music interesting and satisfying good music, I for one remain delighted to have them come along.
In this particular case, tow men happened to share an apartment for several months. It didn’t surprise them that they fitted together very well, despite the superficial differences: a titan among saxophonists, BEN WEBSTER (fiftyish, Kansas City-bred,Negro, associated in most minds with the Ellington band and yesterday – although he remains quite a tower of present-day musical strength); brilliant pianist JOE ZAWINUL (a quarter-century younger, Viennese by birth, white, best-known for his preset stint with Cannonball Adderley’s sextet). They took to “practicing” together most pleasurably (one day, they report, Coleman Hawkins dropped by and all three ran over a few things for about five hours – and why, oh, why, wasn’t a tape machine running then?).
Eventually and logically there arose the idea of a joint record date: tunes old and new that they wanted to play together, with men they both enjoyed working with. Both enjoyed, for example, the stimulation and solid support of working with Philly Joe, often considered a heavy drummer, although he demonstrates here for at least the hundredth time that he is a master at subtle ballad backgrounds. Both dig Thad Jones (who doesn’t?), so his horn was added on some tunes. On bass it’s Richard Davis (a talented young player who has worked a lot with Ben of late) on four numbers, and Sam Jones (Zawinul’s formidable Adderley-band colleague) on the others.
For those who like to have titles explained: “Frog” is one of Ben’s nicknames, hence the punning Frog Legs; The Governor is an inside name for Duke Ellington and Webster’s bow to his ex-boss; Soulmates should be clear enough; and you can work out Thad’s original for yourself.
Finally, without wanting to under-rate the more swinging numbers, the lyrical qualities of the several ballads struck everyone as the real peaks of the album. Thus, it seemed a good idea to ask pianist Bill Evans, a most articulate man and certainly one of the great lyrical musicians of all time, to provide a commentary. As it turned out, he allowed the music here to launch him on a flow of intriguing ideas that make his notes a stimulating, unexpected bonus for purchasers of this album. ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Notes by BILL EVANS
As the music on this record poured into my ears, a Ben Webster portion prompted me to realize a fortunate historical coincidence: that the emergence and evolution of jazz has paralleled the invention and continued improvement of sound recording. It is not difficult to see that although musical notation is a device sufficient to preserve, record, and propagate music as traditionally composed in Western culture, there could be no conceivable system of notation that would allow a true and faithful recreation of the music of interpretive performers. The great composers as we know them may have been forced to many compromises in style because of the necessity of notating in such a way that the interpretive link could be used to preserve their music for future generations.
I was led to these thoughts, and to the others that follow here, as the magnificent maturity of Webster’s music impressed itself on my mind. The great emotional scope revealed by a craft couched in simplicity is an accomplishment not easily measured, and those who do not react to anything but the spectacular or complex deserve to miss the deep satisfactions that can be gained from such an honest and mature artist.
This comment also applies to the work of Joe Zawinul and of the other players here, for each is a proven jazz performer of the first rank. All are capable of contributing in creative sympathy to the whole as well as having the ability to serve as a lead voice. It seems to me admirable that jazz as an art and a discipline demands of its practitioners sufficient maturity to do both these things: to be a sensitive follower as well as an authoritative leader. This spontaneous interplay of four or five individual creative voices is unique in musical performance today. Unlike composed music, which is the reflection of one personality, jazz performance is a constant document of a social situation.
The ideal and the accomplished fact of jazz thus far has been that of a group in harmony, and it is my personal hope that the impetus for group improvisation will never die out. Of course, a group expressing itself without regard for the quality of feelings or craft involved can still be considered the expression of a social situation, and some would argue that it is “truer art” or “free expression”. But “free expression” as such exists most perfectly in infants, and their irresponsible and disorganized behavior can hardly be called art. I suspect that a deliberate seeking for lack of consciousness is apt to be the result of a fear of consciousness. It is peculiar that musicians who have developed to a degree in their craft by very conscious discipline would suddenly abandon this procedure – unless the truth is that they have thought too little and too late. I think o freedom is worthwhile that is not the result of responsible dedication. Furthermore, freedom of expression does not have to be sought. It is the natural outcome of disciplined work. I fear that those who seek it as a separate goal must end in an area of the individual performer himself.
The foregoing is certainly not a problem facing the performers on this LP; I’m sure it came into my mind because the music heard here is such a strong example of the ‘right’ kind of freedom. But one might at first think that these musicians would face another kind of problem – that in some cases the differences in their ages and the varying eras out of which they have grown would create a disparity in style or craft that might preclude effective, mutually stimulating performance. Actually, however, these experienced and dedicated musicians have drawn their craft alike from the same basic traditions. All of them can, and at some time probably have, performed happily and effectively with jazzmen of all eras. Stylistic differences are transcended by a common intuitive understanding of certain challenges of their craft that are accepted by all – an understanding so pure that the boundaries between ‘strict’ and (free’ need never be spoken out loud.
This initial essential insight possessed by a person who directs himself towards the goal of becoming a jazz performer can be described as an entirely affirmative grasp of the basic challenges of his craft. It is based on a view of the trunk of jazz tradition as something that stands apart from specific ‘styles’. To me, the only satisfying craft is one that stays in healthy relationship to this trunk and seeks to understand itself so well that it can reflect (with the least possible distraction on the part of style) the expressive desires of the individual’s talent. A new branch that grows firmly from the trunk and sprouts higher than any other branch is something of value to all. The stoutest of these can eventually be recognized s further extensions of the trunk.
… Perhaps I should apologize for the lack of specific detailed reference to the musicians or the selections played here. But the players are certainly well known, and the music speaks for itself more directly than any descriptive attempts I might make. So if these notes strike you as digressions, please excuse them and accept them as my highly respectful personal response to this demonstration of mature art by master jazz performers.
NOTE: 4 titles of RM(S9)-476 also on VICJ-60514CD
all 6 titles also on M-47056
RM(S9)-476 “Ben Webster/ Joe Zawinul: Soulmates”
Produced by Orpheum Productions; recording Engineer: no information
Notes by Bill Evans. Cover design & photo: no information.
Orpheum Productions, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, Ny., N.Y. 10036