Ben Webster – Stan Tracey: Soho Nights Vol 2

soho nights 2

It’s an irresistible combination: thanks to a new release of previously unissued tracks we can witness the pairing of two giants of jazz – the great American tenor saxophonist Ben Webster and the magnificent British pianist Stan Tracey.

This second volume featuring these two musicians, both recorded live at Ronnie Scotts’ club in London, is if anything even better than volume 1.

Webster plays beautifully throughout; there’s the luscious, warm, breathy tenderness of tone contrasted with the characteristically muscular growling as the tempo increases. The CD liner notes, by the excellent UK saxophonist and very talented writer Simon Spillett, say of Webster:-

[He] delivered in person confirmation of his status as one of the three great Swing Era tenor saxophonists.

However, for me, the real heart of this recording is Stan Tracey’s contribution, which is simply phenomenal! This is no overstatement, Tracey is on truly spectacular form – each solo is bursting with brilliant, inspired, and remarkably bold ideas. For the many Tracey fans out there, this recording is an essential addition to your collection.

Spillett says:-

What strikes this writer as especially gripping is the sheer athleticism of Tracey’s soloing; this is two-handed piano playing, often virtuosic in its delivery and incredibly daring.

Of the pairing of these two giants:-

The juxtaposition of Webster – on the face of it the most “mainstream” guest to have thus far graced Scott’s tiny bandstand – and Tracey, unquestionably then at the forefront of the parochial “modernist” camp, is noteworthy. Hindsight may have made nonsense of such labels…but at the time there were sharp dividing lines. A closer look at Webster’s background reveals how idiotic all this was; the tenorist had been amongst the first of his generation of jazzmen to defend Charlie Parker, had employed Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk at a time when both were far from safe choices…

For a live recording made in the ’60s, the sound quality is excellent, conveying the club atmosphere well, and giving you a privileged front-row seat in front of a band (completed by Rick Laird on bass and Jackie Dougan on drums) who are obviously inspired by each other’s playing, constantly sparking new and unexpected ideas.

Very highly recommended indeed!


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