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Someone To Watch Over Me: The Life and Music of Ben Webster by Frank Büchmann-Møller

Ben Webster always knew the right people. He grew up opposite boogie-woogie pianist Pete Johnson in Kansas City, met Mary Lou Williams as a teenager and went to college with Horace Henderson, Fletcher’s brother. He didn’t pick up the saxophone until he was 20 and working as a pianist, but within months he was living with Lester Young’s family in Albuquerque, playing jobs with the family band and practicing alongside young Prez.

Webster’s life, both charmed and troubled, is chronicled in this fascinating and highly readable new biography. “Frog,” as friends knew him, was both a gentle man who wept when playing ballads and a violent drunk who once threw a prostitute out a window and later stabbed a fellow musician during a recording session. He had a remarkable career, working early on with the seminal KC bands of Bennie Moten and Andy Kirk before relocating to New York to play with Fletcher Henderson, Cab Calloway, Teddy Wilson and-for nearly four peak years-Duke Ellington.

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