Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Ben Webster, Cineaste!

Ben Webster (1909–73), American jazz tenor saxophonist from Kansas City, with his tough, raspy, and brutal tone on stomps (with his own distinctive growls), and yet on ballads, warm and sentimental, spent his last days was in Netherlands, where along his sax, an 8-mm camera was his companion.

These shots are from a Dutch documentary, Big Ben: Ben Webster in Europe (1966), directed by Johann van der Keuken. There are appearences by Don Byas, Michiel de Ruyter, Dolf Verspoor, Jimmy Parsons and Cees Slinger. Ben shoots, and projects. Like his playing, his home-made films are a mere reflection of a soulful and vulnerable individual.

There is even a part when van der Keuken alludes to the beast inside Webster (who, because of his violent behavior after drinking, was nicknamed The Brute) by inter-cutting shots of wild animals in a zoo and the artificial advertising photographs to a haunting close up of Webster in darkness.

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