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Happy Birthdays to Ben Webster and Sarah Vaughan

This Day In Jazz notes that today is the birthdays of Ben Webster and Sarah Vaughan. The great tenor sax player was born in 1909 and the vocalist in 1924.

The Ben Webster Foundation deserves credit for not sugar-coating an unpleasant aspect of Webster’s personality–and in the first paragraph of its profile, no less:

The nickname “The Brute and the Beautiful” was aptly given to tenor saxophonist Ben Webster. He became famous for his beautiful sound which gave his ballad playing a unique touch of tenderness, while his playing in faster tempos was virile and filled with growl, and when sober he was the kindest and gentlest man, witty and entertaining and the natural center of the gathering, while he was unpredictable and violent when he had consummated too much of alcohol. Despite this Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde-personality he was a much loved musician and recorded a fairly amount of excellent records of which most still are in stock, due to the fact that he is the best selling tenor saxophonist in jazz.(Continue Reading…)

Vaughan didn’t take long to rise to the top. By the end of the first paragraph of her Verve profile, Vaughan was playing with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker:

She was born Sarah Lois Vaughan in Newark, New Jersey, on March 27, 1924. Sarah made music from a very early age, first singing in her church choir, then studying piano, then playing organ in church, then singing around town with Jabbo Smith, a great trumpeter and singer. At eighteen, she won the weekly amateur contest at Harlem’s fabled Apollo, an event that was attended by her future mentor and partner, Billy Eckstine, who was then the star vocalist with piano master Earl “Fatha” Hines. Eckstine recommended her to his boss, and Hines not only hired her as female singer for his big band, he also made her his second pianist. When Eckstine put together his own legendary big band in the mid-Forties, which featured Dizzy Gillespie as musical director and Charlie Parker in the saxophone section, Vaughan came along. (Continue Reading…)

Vaughan (who died in 1990) sings “Misty” above. Webster (1973) plays “Chelsea Bridge” below.