on 8 November 2014
A superb album. Webster's style is unique; his tone is smooth and breathy and he seems to separate notes without tonguing. At his best with sad, romantic numbers but he plays the blues beautifully and swings gently on up-tempo. My favourite tracks on this disc are "Makin' Whoopee" and "Lover come back" but they're all good.
Sadly the information on the packaging is unhelpful. Webster is the only artist identified; the pianist on several (the best) tracks is clearly Oscar Peterson but it would have been nice to know about the rest (or even to have that confirmed). Many thanks to Angel Delta's review for adding to that.
Between 1950 and his premature death in 1973 Ben Webster released more than fifty albums to great critical acclaim. But, perhaps, his finest moment is this 1957 release recorded with the Oscar Peterson Trio. Along with Coleman Hawkins, Webster is probably the greatest exponent of swing tenor sax and can count Sonny Rollins and Branford Marsalis among those who have been influenced by his consummate technique.
The bluesy title track "Soulville" is a Webster original and the impeccable phrasing of his sax and the perfectly shaded Peterson accompaniment make this the highlight of the album. It is simply magnificent. A swinging "Late Date" is another Webster original with a punchy sax, more of that Peterson magic and some marvellous bass from Ray Brown.
These are followed by five ballads including a terrific performance of "Makin' Whoopee" and a lyrical "Lover Come Back To Me" with some very atmospheric saxophone really lifting things. But for sheer purity of pitch and tone "Where Are You" finds Webster at his most assured.
There are three bonus tracks on which Webster plays competent piano but there is nothing to set the world ablaze. It's those seven inspired sax tracks and the undeniable class of the Oscar Peterson Trio that make this album an enduring jazz classic.