JazzTimes 10: Jazz Albums with Strings

When we play them, we hear the sound of violins

8. Ben Webster: Music for Loving: Ben Webster with Strings (Norgran, 1955)

Even after 65 years, it somehow remains jarring to hear Ben Webster’s swaggering vibrato cutting through the drapery of strings. It makes sense, of course; nobody played a ballad like Webster, and by the time of the strings’ lighter-than-elsewhere accompaniment on “Willow Weep for Me,” the pairing seems as natural as anything. They then work in tandem to turn Ellington’s jaunty “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me” into a sad, sentimental piece, and “Teach Me Tonight” into a straight-up romance rather than its usual flirty treatment. “My Greatest Mistake” does bring the proceedings to the edge of goopiness—but Webster’s irresistible, blues-steeped tenor sound swoops in to pull it from the brink of disaster.

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.