From the album “Ben Webster – Last concert”
“You’re young. and growing. l’m old, and going. So have your fun while you can”.
Those were the words Ben Webster concluded the concert with, he gave in “De Twee Spieghels” at Leiden on September 6.1973. Dramatic words because it was ordained to be the last concert during the life of the 64—years old jazz-giant.
lt had been a night full of atmosphere. The audience remembered Ben from a concert he had given a couple of years before. together with the Spanish pianist Tete Montoliu and the ice was broken shortly when the saxophonist, in a good temper and glancing into the auditorium, announced that he would bring his “girl—friend” along the next time. American pianist lrv Rocklin‚ bass-player Henk Haverhoek. drummer Peter Ypma and Ben Webster started the concert with “Pennies from heaven”.
Somewhere in the auditorium somebody pushed the recording—button of a cassette-recorder.
And Ben Webster played as he was known: Intensive and liable to changing moods. Soft and easy music was relieved by aggressive and passionate parts, nobody could remain untouched with. The numerous audience got‘ moved more and more by the violently swinging sound and every solo was hailed with enthusiastic clapping and whistling. The four musicians got even more inspired by the reactions of the audience, Ben Webster not last of all.
His playing. supported by the steady beat of Peter Ypma’s drums and the inventive bass-lines of Henk Haverhoek became faster and harder but never lost that famous hoarse vibrato.
And then, suddenly, the show was over.
For the last time in his life Ben Webster laid down his instrument. He apparently didn’t want to play anymore, though the public pleaded for more.
He started talking about his youth, his parents and his life in music. He even sang, very melancholically, some words of an old blues-tune. On that September night Ben Webster maybe felt his end drawing near. “You’re young and growing, I’m old and going. So have your fun while you can”. The last words of the last concert. A couple of hours after the end of the show Ben was admitted to hospital and on September 20,1973 he died.
A living legend had passed away.
We’ll miss him all, the man who played together with giants like Cab Calloway, Benny Moten, Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington: the man as well who accompanied Norman Granz with his unforgettable “Jazz at the Philharmonic”. and who lived by turns in Amsterdam and Copenhagen during the last few years of his life.
Yes, we really miss “Uncle” Ben Webster, but we’ll never forget him. May this album be a homage to him.
The sound-technical quality of these recordings is not similar to the demands which can be made on contemporary records, because nobody could suspect that a record would be made out of it.
It is a unique event, however, to be able to release Ben Webster’s last concert, and that largely compensates the non- professional quality of the recordings.