Ben Webster’s Danny Boy
Pierre Tristam | January 23, 2013
Has there ever been a more sublime version of Danny Boy than Ben Webster’s? I doubt it. He was living in Copenhagen when he died in Amsterdam in September 1973, almost 10 years after deciding to quit his native grounds and live in Europe. His death warranted all of three paragraphs, cribbed from a UPI wire story, in The Times. He’d played with Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Cab Calloway, Norman Granz, Teddy Wilson, Benny Carter and Andy Kirk. He was overshadowed by the likes of Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, but only in his lifetime. Death has been kinder to his legacy. “Webster’s playing,” John Wilson wrote in an appreciation for The Times in 1986, “focused on two extremes. One was a raw, tough, swaggering drive that became overwhelming at fast tempos. The other was his ballad approach – tender, melting but with phrasing so accented that even at its gentlest and most introspective his playing swung. Using both aspects, he was completely at home in any musical circumstance.” Here’s his Danny Boy.