Oscar Peterson and Ben Webster – During This Time
(Proper Note. MIG 80212. CD+DVD Review by Nicolas Pillai)
Ben Webster contained multitudes. This CD+DVD set finds him on fine form and in fine company – Oscar Peterson, Tony Inzalaco and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen. Recorded in December 1972 in front of a live audience in Hannover, these nine tracks are a triumphant last hurrah for the saxophonist, who would die a few months later.
For the aficionado of filmed jazz, the DVD is especially valuable. Beautifully lit, the sinuous camerawork conveys the energy and accomplishment of four top musicians as well as their evident mutual affection. Eschewing straight-on framing, the cameras circle the performers, interacting with their improvisation. Benefiting from a crisp sound balance and lingering close-ups, this is an exemplary piece of jazz television.
The set-list favours Ben’s old employer, Duke Ellington, with excellent renditions of I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good, Come Sunday, Cotton Tail and In A Mellow Tone. The saxophonist’s own Poutin’ and Ben’s Blues top and tail the concert, with the programme rounded out by Sunday, Perdido and a gloriously upbeat For All We Know.
NHØP provides typically urbane, intricate solos, while Inzalaco and Webster riff nicely off one another. Peterson displays his customary ease at switching roles, sometimes a bandleader, sometimes an accompanist. Skipping tempo, his piano’s notes tumble and fall into place, a percussive cascade. During Webster’s solo in Ben’s Blues, Peterson stops playing and leans back, clicking his fingers and clapping in time. It’s a moment of perfect happiness, one of many in this magnificent concert.