Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Big Ben: Ben Webster in Europe (1966)

Big Ben: Ben Webster in Europe (1967)
B&W/30 mins/Netherlands
Directed by Johann van der Keuken

Songs: "My romance" by Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart; "Perdido" by Hans Lengsfelder, Ervin Drake, Juan Tizol; "You'd be so nice to come home to" by Cole Porter.
With: Ben Webster, Don Byas, Michiel de Ruyter, Dolf Verspoor, Jimmy Parsons and Cees Slinger.

Ben Webster (1909–73), American jazz tenor saxophonist from Kansas City, with his tough, raspy, and brutal tone on stomps (with his own distinctive growls), and yet on ballads, warm and sentimental, spent his last days was in Netherlands, where along his sax, an 8-mm camera was his companion.

Johann van der Keuken makes his film, as well as uses some of Webster's footage presumably shot on 8mm. The combination is something cinematically curious, if musically less pleasing for Webster's hardcore fans who want to hear and see a piece uninterrupted by fast cuts.

There is a sequence in the film, when van der Keuken alludes to the beast inside Webster (who, because of his violent behavior after drinking, was nicknamed The Brute) by inter-cutting shots of wild animals in a zoo and the artificial advertising photographs to a haunting close up of Webster in darkness.

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