Three albums are reproduced here in full. "Soulville" was recorded in LA on 15th October 1957 for the Verve label by the Ben Webster Quintet, in effect the Oscar Peterson Trio plus drummer Stan Levey. The following day Ben teamed up with his idol Coleman Hawkins, with the same backing but for Alvin Stoller on drums, which session was released originally as part of a 2-LP set entitled "Tenor Giants", but was issued separately in the UK two years later as "Blue Saxophones".
"The Soul of Ben Webster" also has a more complex origin, having started out as one of a trio of LPs (Harry "Sweets" Edison and Johnny Hodges being the leads on the other two) which was subsequently reissued as a 2-CD set. My understanding is that Webster starred on the first session, which would mean the recordings date from March 1957, not July 1958 as shown. Finally, the filler is seven of the ten tracks from the 1954 album "Sophisticated Lady" (the remainder being Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me, Prelude to a Kiss and Come Rain or Come Shine), which features a quintet with strings on the first three tracks, and a quartet on the remainder.
By the mid-fifties Webster had settled on slow to medium-tempo ballads as his forte, and this compilation provides ample evidence of that preference. These albums, in particular "Soulville" and "The Soul of Ben Webster" were well received when first issued. It's worth recalling that in 1961, reviewing the HMV issue of "Soul", Philip Larkin wrote "There is some danger that the tenor sax may become the club bore of jazz, droning on in front of a docile rhythm section for track after track", before noting the album as an exception. There's no indication of it, but the whole compilation is in stereo. The sound quality is excellent, and this should be an essential purchase for lovers of mellow jazz.