SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Ben Webster and “Sweets” Edison – Columbia CS 8691 (1962)/ Original Recordings Group (45 rpm vinyls)

One of the finest two-horn jazz sessions ever, in the finest fidelity possible.

Published on May 17, 2013

Ben Webster and “Sweets” Edison – Columbia CS 8691 (1962)/ Original Recordings Group (45 rpm vinyls)

Ben Webster and “Sweets” Edison – [TrackList follows] Columbia CS 8691 (1962)/ Original Recordings Group (2013) stereo 45 rpm audiophile vinyl *****:

(“Sweets” Edison, trumpet; Ben Webster, tenor sax; Hank Jones, piano; George Duvivier, doublebass; Clarence Johnson, drums)

The great trumpet player and the older saxist with the totally unique sound had recorded together before and wanted to get together again.  This 1962 session was the superb result. Now for the first time we can hear it almost like we were there in the Columbia Studios with the jazzmen, in these fantastic remasterings by Bernie Grundman from the original Columbia analog master tapes.  Only 2500 of the limited edition double-disc set have been pressed at RTI (this one is No. 01286.) Even with the wide spread of the 45 rpm grooves, only three vinyl sides were required, so the fourth side just repeats the first two tracks again. So if you ever wear out the first side repeatedly demonstrating some of the best jazz ever played and recorded in some of the ultimate sonics, you will have a clean fourth side to then go on to.

The liner notes are by somebody named Billy James, and I do wish Billy would have been aware that writing entirely in capitals is terribly hard on the eyes. The differing styles and instruments of the two giant performers complement one another perfectly. The rich and deep tone of Ben Webster’s sax makes every ballad he plays sound like the only version of that tune we should ever pay attention to. There’s something so right  and yet so identifiable about his sound, and due to the extended fidelity possible at the 45 rpm speed, his sound is cleaner and with more presence than any other recording format. I thought it very interesting that the liner notes refer to his unique breathiness being as inseparable from his special sound as are “the gravel tones of a Lotte Lenya.” (Of course that was 1962 and such a reference probably wouldn’t be made today.)

Edison’s solos may be a bit more modern-sounding and acrobatic, but next to a trumpeter like Miles Davis he sounds much more in the Ben Webster bag. His closer, using the Harmon mute on his solo trumpet, makes “Embraceable You” a super classic on the spot. The top-flight rhythm section is no slouch either, with pianist Hank Jones especially supporting both horn men in the most creative fashion imaginable. One doesn’t mind a bit the more-frequent up-and-down required for 45 rpm discs when the playing and the sonics are at this heavenly level!

TrackList:

1. Better Go
2. How Long Has This Been Going On
3. Kitty
4. My Romance
5. Did You Call Her Today
6. Embraceable You
7. Better Go (repeat)
8. How Long Has This Been Going On (repeat)

—John Henry




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