The Brute and the Beautiful

Ben Webster

A definitive documentary on the great Ben Webster

Ben Webster (1909-73) was one of the greatest tenor-saxophonists of all time, capable of playing solos that were either brutish (complete with roars, growls and screams) or filled with great beauty (particularly on ballads).

This 90-minute documentary from the late 1970s does a superior job of tracing Webster’s life through performance clips (including with the Duke Ellington orchestra, Benny Carter, Jimmy Witherspoon and Gerry Mulligan) and storytelling from such classic musicians as Milt Hinton, Harold Ashby, Jimmy Rowles, Jimmy Hamilton and Joe Zawinul.

Webster’s up-and-down life, which ended with nine years spent in Europe, is well covered during the colorful and informative documentary.

– Scott Yanow