Ben Webster is without question one of the music’s immortals. He did not originate a style or spearhead a period of radical change; but his magnetic tenor saxophone playing moved listeners as deeply as the work of any other artist on his or any other instrument. Intensity and honesty were the hallmarks of Webster’s music from his early days in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. During the Twenties and Thirties, he gained fame as a major Coleman Hawkins disciple and one of jazz’s premier hot soloists through his work with the big bands of Bennie Moten, Cab Calloway, Fletcher Henderson, and others; and while his uptempo brilliance continued to be displayed after he joined Duke Ellington in 1940 on classics like "Cotton Tail," the Ducal environment and nightly exposure to alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges brought out a ballad mastery in Webster that continued to blossom in the Fifties, when he made a series of recordings for Verve. Appreciation of Webster’s work has only grown since his passing in 1973.
Excerpted from Bob Blumenthal’s notes to Ultimate Ben Webster Verve 314 557 537-2