The Ben Webster Foundation

The mission of The Ben Webster Foundation is to keep the music and the memory of one of the worlds finest tenor saxophonists alive. Ben Webster (27.3.1909-20.9.1973) spent his last years in Denmark. 

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►Check out all known gigs by Ben Webster from 1925 to 1973

Listed by Frank Brückmann Møller, member of the Ben Webster Foundation

The Ben Webster Foundation honors Kasper Tranberg with the Ben Webster Prize 2019

This years Ben Webster Prize concert March 31st. was one to remember. Everything fell into place. The music, the feeling and the prizewinners proved their new honours brilliantly at the Bartof Station for a full house os jazzfans and Webster Friends.
See full video:
The press followed up, look up to see a review.
Trumpeter, composer, Kasper Tranberg, who received the prize of 25.000 Dkr. Honourable prizes to Pierre Dørge of the famed New Jungle Orchestra and tenorsaxofonist Finn Odderskov for their outstanding and long service for jazz. The gentleman next to Pierre Dørge is Jesper Løvdal, The Ben Webster Foundations new chairman.
Photoes: Kim Malmqvist.

Honorary Prize for Niels-Jørgen Steen – 80 years!

Well, he finally turned 80, and THAT was cause for celebration at Huset’s Paradise Jazz Club, featuring the best band in town performing for a full house with bandleader NIELS-JØRGEN STEEN in a two-piece suit, radiating his special brand of charisma. Everything transpired in proper fashion with presents, tributes, love and circumstances … In loose and lovely order with incredible arrangements and the best soloists … Mårten Lundgreen on ’Some Other Time’, Roger Berg at full blast, Christina von Bülow on ’The Nearness of You’, Jesper Løvdal on ’Johnny Come Lately’, etc. A night to remember. And who was it who wandered home that quiet frosty night with Ms. Tove, the evening’s angel who had arranged this party for NJS? Yours truly – and with pleasure. And an honorary ten-kilo prize from Ben Webster was presented to the birthday boy by Løvdal, new chairman of the BW Foundation …  QUITE an evening. 10 more years! (Text and photo: Henrik Wolsgaard-Iversen)

Then Ben Webster Foundation supports Jazz in Denmark. Since 1977 we have given a yearly prize to numerous Danish jazz musicians.

See all the Ben Webster prize winners

Then Ben Webster Foundation supports Jazz in Denmark. Since 1977 we have given a yearly prize to numerous of Danish jazz musicians. 

all the prize winners

New Chairman in the Ben Webster Foundation
New Youngblood Jesper Lovedale, saxophonist and former chairman of Jazz Denmark, takes the lead in The Ben Webster Foundation, while boardmembers Jesper Thilo and Ole Matthiessen are present and Søren Damving clicked the photo where Henrik Wolsgaard-Iversen reminds the new chairman, that everything we do in the Foundation has to be in the Spirit of Ben Webster. That has been the credo since 1975. Iversen believes he has been chairman since 1986 or so, and after more than 30 years in the chairman's seat he thinks it's time to slide sideways. Iversen will continue as a member of the board. He was a great friend of Ben Webster during the years Webster lived in Copenhagen. There are rare photoes and several Ben Webster drawings by Klaus Albrectsen in Iversen's impressive Copenhagen appartment, where Ben Webster was a regular guest.
Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2018. A party for the press was held at Hotel Kong Arthur on June 6.
The poster for the 40th edition of Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2018 - designed by Christiane Spangsberg - was unveiled. Anders Laursen and Kenneth Hansen from Copenhagen Jazz Festival were awarded the Ben Webster Honorary Prize with congratulations from Henrik Wolsgaard-Iversen. The music was provided by Søren Høst and Jesper Thilo, saxes, Carsten Dahl on piano, Lennart Ginman on bass and David Besiakow, drums. A good time was had by all - including the lovely lady with hat and champagne. Master photographer Gorm Valentin took pictures and Flora from Danish (jazz) Radio P 8 reported on the activities. This year Copenhagen Jazz Festival takes place from July 6-15 and includes 1,300 concerts.
Jan Harbeck and Henrik Gunde receive Ben Webster Prize 2018.
The Ben Webster Foundation selected two great, extroverted younger musicians - pianist Henrik Gunde and tenor saxophonist Jan Harbeck - to share the prestigious Ben Webster Prize that was celebrated on April 1st in Copenhagen at Bartof Station, shortly after Webster’s birthday on March 27th.
Harbeck heard the good news while playing with Snorre Kirk’s band at Paradise Club and showed his gratitude on Facebook, describing how Webster’s music inspired him to pick the sax - and jazz - for his life. Furthermore, Danish newspaper Politiken described Jan Harbeck Quartet’s show at last year’s Copenhagen Jazz Festival in a review by music editor Thomas Michelsen: “The tenor saxophone is the essential sound of jazz. The soul of the genre. Once upon a time we had Ben Webster in Copenhagen to bring that soul to life again. Today we have Jan Harbeck.”
Upon hearing the news, pianist Henrik Gunde was also moved and happy for the prize. He’s busy playing gigs and releasing CDs with his own trio and has been the pianist in the legendary Danish Radio Big Band for a number of years. He is inspired by numerous pianists such as Keith Jarrett, Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Kelly, Ahmad Jamal and Erroll Garner, but he also mentions Bach and Carl Nielsen and a number of songwriters.
Click and listen to Jan Harbeck and Henrik Gunde at Copenhagen Jazz Festival
On Sunday March 26 harmonica virtuoso Mathias Heise received the Ben Webster Prize 2017 as the youngest prize recipient ever.

The Prize Concert on Sunday, March 26 was held at Kulturhuset Absalon i Copenhagen, a former church transformed into a wonderful activity house with good acoustics for music. 
Despite his young age, it’s far from the first time Mathias Heise is receiving a prize and some recognition. The harmonica virtuoso had his big breakthrough in 2013 when he won 1st prize on the chromatic harmonica at the World Harmonica Festival in Germany. In 2014 he won the Danish Songwriters Guild’s award for ‘New Jazz Star of the Year’, and in 2016 he received the Danish Crown Prince’s ‘Stardust Prize’. Click for more photoes
An honorable award was also given to saxophonist Jens Søndergaard.

On July 4, 2016, Charles Lloyd was made honorary member of the Ben Webster Foundation
On the 4th of July?, spiritual jazz legend Charles Lloyd was appointed honorary member of the Ben Webster Foundation in connection with his two sold-out concerts at the 2016 Copenhagen Jazz Festival.

Ever since its creation in 1976, the Ben Webster Foundation has acquired distinguished honorary members such asBenny Carter, Mercer Ellington, Harry Edison, Clark Terry, Yusef Lateef, Herluf Kamp Larsen, and most recently Sonny Rollins.

“The last time Charles Lloyd was in Copenhagen, he took the opportunity to praise Ben Webster, calling him one of the most important sax players, and mentioned he was glad to see there was a philanthropic jazz foundation like Webster’s,” says Foundation Chairman Henrik Wolsgaard-Iversen.

Now the opportunity has arisen to invite Charles Lloyd to join the Foundation’s honorary membership. Happy to accept the invitation, the occasion was commemorated with a short ceremony at Jazzhus Montmartre, where Ben Webster was THE big name during his eight years in Denmark.

Pianist Heine Hansen Receives 2016 Ben Webster Prize

Heine Hansen was awarded the 2016 Ben Webster Prize by jazz journalist and Ben Webster Foundation member Christian Munch Hansen. The grand event took place at Absalon, Copenhagen’s new culture house in the Vesterbro district. Heine Hansen repaid the compliment with a superb concert featuring Gerard Prescenser on trumpet, Thomas Fonnesbæk, bass, and Alex Riel, drums. The concert was recorded by Radio Jazz for later broadcasting on Radio Jazz and Danmarks Radio’s P8.

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Pianisten Heine Hansen modtog den 27. marts årets Ben Webster Pris 2016. Prisen blev overrakt af jazzskribent og medlem af Ben Webster Fonden Christian Munk Hansen.
September 2013
Check you discography. You won't find it. Previously unreleased recordings.

BEN WEBSTER, tenor sax

Recorded at Pub Trondhjem, Norway, March 17, 1970.
Storyville Records in agreement with the Ben Webster Foundation
Ben Webster’s 110th Birthday, March 27th
Benjamin Francis Webster was born to Mayme Barker at 2441 Highland Ave. in Kansas City, Missouri, at 12:02 pm on March 27, 1909. After a number of musically turbulent years where he changed from playing violin to piano to tenor saxophone, he came to New York City in 1934 and played in Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra. Then he joined Duke Ellington, where he matured musically in the early 1940s with what came to be known as ‘the Webster-Blanton Band’, which produced some of the best recordings of Ellington’s career. Pioneering bassist Jimmy Blanton became Webster’s best friend, but died tragically of tuberculosis in 1942.
The 1950s was a brilliant period in Webster’s career, largely thanks to music impresario and record producer Norman Grantz taking Ben under his wing. In December 1964 Webster sailed to England and came to Denmark a month later. He lived in the Netherlands from 1966-69, after which he returned to live in Denmark. Ben died in September 1973 during a concert tour of the Netherlands and was laid to rest in Copenhagen’s Assistens Cemetery.
Photo: Ben Webster in Kansas City 1909
Blake and Webster
In 1972 in the summer I had just begun at DR TV, Entertainment dept. We had a running Saturday night TV show, mixed, light, music, interviews  etc.
A person, mr. Thomsen, I think his name was, called on the phone and said: Maybe this could be something for the TV. The weather is so rainy and my guests want something to do.,.. - . After a while I understood that the guests were Eubie Blake and his wife, and they were rained in in a summerhouse in the southern part of Sjælland, Zeeland.,
THE  Eubie Blake?
Yes. They come here every year since we met in New York…
Well of course we brought Eubie Blake to the DR TV Studio for a live talk/and wonderful pianomusic, maybe 15 minutes long. (It was live and not recorded).
We had a pleasant talk afterwards, and he asked me: I believe that there is a Ben Webster living in Copenhagen now. Do you know about him..?
Yes I did. We saw him almost daily, living nearby now.  
So could I arrange a meeting?
Of course.  I called Ben and said: I have a surprise guest for you. You ready?  Sure, said Ben.
The TV payed for the taxi. Mr. Blake and I took the lift to the third floor on Nørre Søgade, and rang the bell. Ben opened in his brown silk kimono and slippers with the rest of his hair sticking up in the air, and an odour of cabbage on the stove coming through the door.
‘Boy’, said Blake. ‘You better get your clothe in order and open some windows, before I come in.’
Yes Sir, said Ben and closed the door.
We waited and smalltalked outside for a minute or two untill Ben opened the door, dressed and with fresh air from ALL windows opened. Hair groomed. Please come in.
They had never met, but Ben was in awe and behaved like a teenager meeting his idol. He cleared tables, moved furnitures around until Blake could sit comfortably.
‘I see you have a piano, Webster. Do you still play?  You were quite good at it once, I remember.’
‘Oh well, no I don’t play Sir… I…’
‘Let me hear, play ‘Caroline Shout’ for us.’
‘If I insist’ said Blake with a big smile now.
‘Ahh  well…’  Webster sat, played a few figures at the piano, but gave up, obviously very nervous.
‘Go on’ said Blake ‘You still have the touch’
So Ben struggled a few bars more but got up and went for a beer for us. ‘No thanks, not for me, but some fresh water…. It’s so good here in Denmark, please’.
‘ I understand that you are playing the saxophone now’, asked Eubie Blake. ‘Is that going well?’
‘Much better than the piano… matter of fact I have been playing sax for quite a while now..’ 
‘Yes, I know you were with Fletcher and Ellington…what happened after those days?’
‘Well, Ben began….’It really isn’t important. What I would like, please, if YOU would play on the small piano there…’
So Blake got up, stretched his grand hands, sat down and played some of his own songs, all with elegance and a friendly gesture, one of the numbers were a fast stride….
‘ Sir, excuse me’ said Ben.’ Could you please play ‘Memories of You’…?
‘That will cost you another glass of water’, said Blake and played and Webster’s eyes got wet…
After this they became Friends, and Blake was brought into town three or four times to visit Ben. One time was in a radio studio were Jan Persson took the now famous picture.
Was anything recorded there? I don’t know, really.      
Henrik Iversen remembering…
A photographer, a fan, a legend...
The library of the University of Southern Denmark has produced a 64-page publication that deals with the library’s numerous collections of jazz material. The book is illustrated with photos by jazz collector/fan Timme Rosenkrantz, jazz photographer Ole Brask and jazz musician Ben Webster. Frank Büchmann Møller, member of the Ben Webster Foundation, is co-author.
Photo: Ole Brask

Read the publication here.
Ben Webster live 1971
Stardust. Jazzhus Montmartre, Copenhagen, February 28, 1971.
Ben Webster ts, Charlie Shavers tp, Niels Jørgen Steen p, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen b, Jørn Elniff dr.
Charles Lloyd has send us this photo of Ben Webster and John Coltrane.
The photographer, Mr. Carvara explains: “Ben Webster had come to see Coltrane play at Birdland. By 1960, when this photograph was taken, Trane was the leading figure and Ben was past his prime, so people feel there's this conflict going on. But in fact they were just ecstatic. It was Trane who was feeling the most emotion because this was his father, this was the great Ben Webster.”
Charles Lloyd meditates at Ben Websters gravesight after he was nominated as Honorary Member of the Foundation last summer.
Drummer Ole Streenberg received the Ben Webster Honorary Prize in 2016

Ole Streenberg repaid the compliment with a concert featuring the fine Italian tenor saxophonist, Emanuele Cisi, Ben Besiakow on piano and Jesper Lundgaard on bass. Later in the evening Ole Streenberg and Alex Riel raised the roof in a terrific drum battle. No winner was announced, but most of those in attendance agreed the encounter ended in a draw.

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Read the new article about Ben Webster and Billie Holiday’s 1956?1956-57? recordings.

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Ben Webster's First Concert in Copenhagen - Storyville Records
The music on this album could be called "a prelude to a love affair. Why? Because it was the great tenor saxophonist Ben Webster's first encounter with the country and city he decided to spend the rest of his life in, living, playing and loving. Recorded 1965 with Kenny Drew p, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen b, Alex Riel dr.
Review by Chris Mosey
This is a small piece of jazz history. In January 1965, Ben Webster, newly arrived in Europe from America, was working out where to settle down. This concert shows why he decided on Copenhagen. 

The album starts with Webster making a point about the playing of his former boss Duke Ellington's "In A Mellotone." Webster argues his case on piano, an instrument he played well, while brusquely growling instructions to producer Børge Roger Henrichsen. There is a great sense of being there. 

The concert proper starts with "Pennies From Heaven." In those days, "European rhythm section" was often used as a term of abuse by U.S. jazz musicians, but there were exceptions and this was one of them: pianist Kenny Drew, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen on bass, and drummer Alex Riel. 

Ellington's "Blues In B-Flat" and Rodgers and Hart's "My Romance" act as a prelude to the actual performance of "In A Mellotone." 

This is Webster at his best, before he settled into his breathy, formulaic ballad rut. He is heading there on "My Romance," but there is still power and passion in his playing. The concert ends (for the news to be broadcast) after the first chorus of "Cottontail," Webster's "piece de résistance" with the Ellington band. In the liner notes Henrik Wolsgaard-Iversen, chairman of the Ben Webster Foundation, describes Ben's playing as having "a human, sincere feeling, a sparse timing—and always to the point; never too much, never too little." 

Today there is an up-market waterfront street in Copenhagen named after Webster, who died in 1973. His grave in Assistens Cemetery is a place of pilgrimage. His portrait hangs in the city's concert hall. 

Wolsgaard-Iversen recalls once telling Webster that his playing reminded him of Ernest Hemingway's early short stories. The saxophonist replied, "Well, you could say that. He could write too... and he was a fair boxer."

Track Listing: In A Mellotone (rehearsal); Pennies From Heaven; Blues In B-Flat; My Romance; In A Mellotone; Over The Rainbow; Cotton Tail.
Personnel: Ben Webster: tenor saxophone; Kenny Drew: piano; Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen: bass; Alex Riel: drums.

Title: Ben Webster's First Concert in Denmark | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Storyville Records
Ben Webster 1929, 1939, 1949, 1959, 1969

Playing piano in a silent movie theatre i Amarillo, Texas 
1939: Free lancing in New York
1949: Touring and recording with Duke Ellington and his Orchestra
1959: Freelancing in New York
1969: Touring Europe

On July 3rd, 2011 Sonny Rollins received an honourable membership of the Ben Webster Foundation
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Legendary reedplayer Yusef Lateef and legendary owner of the Montmartre Jazzhus met again in 2009 and became both Honourable Memberes of the Ben Webster Foundation.

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Transcription of Ben Webster's famous solo on Cottontail in 1940
The photo shows Cootie Williams, Russell Procope og Paul Gonsalves visiting Webster in Copenhagen.
Read a new article about the 1956 recording with Ben Webster and Art Tatum
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Read a new article about the newly released recordings with Ben Webster, Ray Nance, Jimmie Blanton 1941
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Webster - Peterson
Hanover 1972

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