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Williams and Webster Recording Released

The only known recording of vocalist Joe Williams (pictured) and tenor saxophonist Ben Webster performing together live was commercially released for the first time earlier this week. Hyena released the recently discovered nightclub performance, recorded in February 1964 at Pio’s Lodge in Providence, R.I. Titled Havin’ a Good Time!, the album features backing musicians Junior Mance on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Mickey Roker on drums.

The source tapes for the recording were discovered in the Hamilton College Jazz Archive by Joe Williams’ archivist, Monk Rowe. The recording was donated to the school by Williams’ widow shortly after the singer’s death in 1998.

“In late 1995, the late Milt Fillius Jr., Hamilton College class of ’44 and Life Trustee, launched a project to gather videotaped interviews with America’s great jazz artists,” Rowe explained in a press release. “Milt was a true fan of jazz and counted many musicians as his friends, including Joe Williams. Upon Joe’s passing, Joe’s wife Jillean made a generous gift to the Archive of significant memorabilia, including reel to reel tapes that I later discovered contained these historical recordings of Joe and Ben.”

Mance said he remembered the night and said, “Joe Williams and our group had a weeklong engagement at a club in Providence. The town was hit by a blizzard, but we still had to show up and play. When we got to the club, sitting there with his saxophone was Ben Webster and he joined us for a few sets.”

The album opens with the quintet performing “Just a Sittin’ and a Rockin'” and continues with classics including “Kansas City Blues,” “That’s All,” “Alone Together,” “The Great City” and “Ain’t Misbehavin.'”

Originally Published