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Glenn Zottola | Classic Standards With Strings - Inspired By Ben Webster

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Classic Standards With Strings - Inspired By Ben Webster

by Glenn Zottola

Inspired by the sound of Ben Webster, Glenn Zottola performs nine classic tracks including "Laura", "Willow Weep For Me" and "Portrait of Jenny".
Genre: Jazz: Orchestral Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man of Mine
3:48 $1.29
2. Laura
3:28 $1.29
3. What's New?
3:28 $1.29
4. Memories of You
3:36 $1.29
5. Willow Weep for Me
3:29 $1.29
6. Embraceable You
3:05 $1.29
7. Blue Moon
3:17 $1.29
8. Where or When
3:28 $1.29
9. Yesterdays
3:05 $1.29
10. Portrait of Jenny
3:28 $1.29
11. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
3:17 $1.29
12. Stardust
3:27 $1.29
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Ben Webster Revisited - Ben Webster’s playing was more about the sound than about the notes. Coleman Hawkins, his idol and main influence could run rings around Webster harmonically, since Hawkins knew every chord backwards and forwards. Hawkins could make dozens of notes fit while Webster could get his message across with one perfectly placed sound. He had a unique sound and style, one that was at its prime for more than 30 years.

In the 1930s, Webster worked with a large assortment of big bands, and was a key soloist with the Bennie Moten Orchestra in Kansas City during 1931-33. He also worked with Andy Kirk, the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra in 1934 (as the successor to Coleman Hawkins), Benny Carter, Willie Bryant, Cab Calloway (1936-37), back with Henderson, Stuff Smith, Roy Eldridge and the Teddy Wilson big band (1939-40). He also had two short stints with Duke Ellington during 1935-36.

With all of this activity and many recordings as a sideman, Ben Webster was known in the jazz world but had not really found a musical home. Finally in 1940 he found it when he became the first permanent tenor-saxophonist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Ellington knew how to write for Webster, giving him both romps such as “Cotton Tail” and ballads (“All Too Soon” and “Chelsea Bridge”) on which he could display his musical talents. Webster became such an integral part of the Ellington sound, that his successors (Al Sears and Paul Gonsalves) played in styles strongly influenced by him.

After leaving Ellington in 1943, Webster could be found on 52nd Street, leading small combos. He was impressed with
Charlie Parker the first time he saw him and was open to using bop musicians in his group but saw no reason to alter his
style. Throughout his life, his playing became gradually deeper and more emotional without seriously changing.

Webster was back with Duke Ellington’s orchestra during 1948-49. He spent time in Kansas City working with Jay McShann and he freelanced. In the 1950s he toured with Norman Granz’s Jazz At The Philharmonic, interacting with fellow tenor-saxophonist Flip Phillips and trumpeter Roy Eldridge. Webster was signed by Norman Granz, recording for his Clef and Verve labels. He had opportunities to record with Coleman Hawkins, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Benny Carter and Teddy Wilson, with one of the highpoints of his career being a quartet album with Art Tatum.

Ben Webster was still in his prime in 1964 when he turned 55, but he was being overshadowed in the jazz world by John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and generations of younger musicians. Since work was scarce, he agreed to go to Europe in December, liked what he saw, and decided to stay. Webster, who eventually settled in Copenhagen, found that his swing-based style, considered out of vogue in the U.S., was quite popular in Europe. He was rightfully celebrated as a living legend and he was able to work as often as he liked. He stayed active up until his death on Sept. 20, 1973 at the age of 64.

Glenn Zottola was best known in his earlier years as a hot trumpeter whose classic style ranged from Louis Armstrong to Clifford Brown. He also occasionally played alto in those days but in more recent times has often recorded on tenor. The versatile Zottola has been featured on a series of stimulating projects for Music Minus One including tributes to Clifford Brown (on trumpet), Charlie Parker (on alto) and Stan Getz’s bossa nova period (on tenor).

“This series lets me pay tribute to some of the great legends who influenced who I am,” says Glenn Zottola, “and it also allows me to pass down to others what was passed down to me. When I reached Ben Webster, it brought back memories of listening to his recordings with Duke Ellington, and I was inspired to record these ballads with his flavor.”

On Ben Webster Revisited, Zottola makes no attempt to imitate Webster but performs a set of ballads utilizing the great tenor’s relaxed and romantic approach along with hints of his airy breathy sound. Rather than playing doubletime phrases, he lets the music breathe, putting plenty of feeling into each note. Among the highlights are such songs as “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man” (from Jerome Kern’s Showboat), “Stardust,” “Blue Moon” and “Laura.” A special treat is hearing the beautiful “Portrait Of Jennie,” a song that has hardly been played in jazz since Clifford Brown. This is a very romantic album, one in which Glenn Zottola captures the essence of the Ben Webster.
- Scott Yanow

I received a copy of Dexter Gorden’s mouthpiece from my instrument company RS Berkeley to audition. This intrigued me as it is a metal mouthpiece which has a certain quality and “personality" as opposed to the hard rubber I always played. I looked back and started to listen to all of the jazz legends before Dexter who had played metal mouthpieces, all the way back to Coleman Hawkins the father of jazz tenor. I was very moved relistening to Ben Webster, especially his approach to ballad playing. The subtlety and beauty of his sound and expression is truly a lost art and I felt at one with it. His approach seemed to fit so well with these string arrangements. During the recording of this album, I found myself in a “zone” as we call it that seemed so natural and at home that it just rolled from one tune to the next. Ben Webster was truly one of the major voices of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. I hope that you enjoy this music as much as I did recording it.
- Glenn Zottola



to write a review

Nick Mondello

Glenn Zottola "Classic Standards With Strings" Inspired by Ben Webster
Classic Jazz Records - Glenn Zottola "Classic Standards with Strings” Inspired by Ben Webster - By Nick Mondello

Jazz Legends Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Ben Webster are rightfully considered the Swing Era’s Pantheon of the tenor saxophone. It is from that glorious rock-solid foundation of the jazz tree that yet-to-come tenor greats such as Stan Getz, John Coltrane and others blossomed. The influence of the tenor triumvirate on those who followed them was enormous – Hawkins improvisational genius exemplified in the still-examined “Body and Soul,” Young’s suave and silky-smooth cool melodic and improvisational approach and Webster’s sensually breathy balladic and hard-swinging up-tempo interpretations.
With “Classic Standards with Strings – Inspired by Ben Webster,” multi-instrumentalist Glenn Zottola, yet again musically validates his worldwide reputation as both an insightful and highly expressive musical artist. Here he grabs his tenor and brilliantly delivers a dozen of the Great American Songbook’s most melodic and romantic jewels. The result is an aural masterpiece of tone, melodic passion, and lyric sensitivity.
Webster was a large man who was nicknamed “Brute.” However, his breathy entrances and tonal sensitivities belied the moniker. Zottola, who shrewdly doesn’t mime Webster’s sound or articulation here and who certainly isn’t brutish in any way - musically or otherwise - renders all of the smoothness and sensitivity that both the esteemed material and his mentor deserve. Working exclusively with the greatest of balladic material (“Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” “Laura,” “Embraceable You”) and backed by a lush string orchestra and superior arrangements, the recording is reminiscent of the great Jackie Gleason sides – you know, when music was about elegance, romance and class.
Zottola, first and foremost a melody man, takes this classic material and literally breathes interpretive life into it. His reserved dynamic feel and vocal-tinged vibrato are a case study in lyricism and stellar ballad playing (“Where or When?” “Yesterdays,” and “Stardust”). When he covers the melody, Zottola gives the marvelous illusion of singing via his horn. And, his well-thought out improvisations all gravitate from a melodic core. The entire effort is a rapturous dream.
Ben Webster is still revered worldwide and especially in Denmark where there is a street named after him (as well as a foundation that awards scholarships to young jazzers). However, I’m dead-certain that when the Danes get a hold of this effort from Glenn Zottola, they might consider getting a second street sign ready for another superb tenor man.