DESScafé is back after having been closed for renovation since May.
This time, the meeting was in English and the topic The Young Ben Webster 1932-1939. The music to enjoy and discuss had been selected by Thomas Erikson and myself. It had been chosen to demonstrate Webster’s stylistic development during these formative years.
During this early period, he played in Blanche Calloways’ Her Joy Boys in the spring of 1931 Then joined Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra in the winter 1931/1932 and stayed with it until Christmas time in 1932.
In January 1933, Webster was engaged by Andy Kirk and His Twelve Clouds, where he met Mary Lou Williams. who meant a lot for his early development.
In March 1934, Lester Young moved from Count Basie band to join Fletcher Henderson’s. However, it was a short stay for Young. A few months later Henderson made a deal with Andy Kirk to exchange Young for Webster and in mid-July Webster started with Henderson. But it was a short stay. In early November the Henderson orchestra disbanded.
Webster was then recruited by Benny Carter but the band had a short life. However, several members of the band, Webster included, was recruited by the singer and entertainer Willie Bryant in January 1935 and Webster stayed with him until August 1935.
During the period with Bryant, Webster recorded not only with him but also with small groups under Bob Howard’s and Teddy Wilson’s name.
After he left Bryant, Webster played two-three weeks with Duke Ellington substituting for Barney Bigard. He participated in a recording session on this occasion and then joined Cab Calloway in September 1935. Webster stayed with Calloway for almost two years.
During the period with Calloway, Webster participate in many small group recordings under Teddy Wilson’s, Mildred Bailey’s and Billie Holiday’s name.
He moved back to Fletcher Henderson in July 1937, where he took over after Chu Berry. In Maj 1938 he abruptly leaves Henderson. Next Webster works for a short period with Stuff Smith’s small group at the Onyx Club on 52nd Street in New York and then with Roy Eldrige’s small band.
In the spring of 1939, Teddy Wilson left Benny Goodman to start a big band and he recruited Webster for the sax section. He spent ten months with the Wilson orchestra before he was invited on 21 January, 1940 to join Duke Ellington.
This is the framework for the 12 September DESScafé.
The Spotify playlist have three songs which were not played played during the meeting. They are: Without That Gal (Blanche Calloway and Her Joy Boys), Rug Cutter’s Swing (Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra) and Truckin’ (Duke Ellington and His Orchestra). I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm and The Man I Love with Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra are unfortunately not available on Spotify. and are not included in the playlist.
A Swedish text version of this article together with the video is available at https://ellington.se/desscafe/desscafe-12-september-2022/
Author: Ulf Lundin