Big Ben: Ben Webster in Europe

An intimate, curious portrait of American ex-pat tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, shot between March and June 1967 in Amsterdam, where he eventually died in 1972. Though the title suggests outright praise, van der Keuken goes deeper into Webster’s sound and character by creating visual metaphors (a conversation about the blues cuts to a shot of a knife), relating anecdotes and giving a brief history of the man. Toying with the possibilities of the interplay between sound and image, the film treats Webster as one of the architects of tenor sax by visiting a saxophone factory, where industrial noise subsides allowing us to hear Webster’s luscious vibrato sound. Treated with warmth and respect, this former member of Duke Ellington’s band is seen doing various activities such as cooking, talking to his hospitable landlady, shooting pool and using his 8mm camera. When, later on, van der Keuken incorporates excerpts from what are presumably Webster’s films, jazz and cinema seem even more interwoven than first assumed.

-Ehsan Khoshbakht

The Netherlands

Johan van der Keuken

Johan van der Keuken

Ben Webster
Cees Slings
Dolf Verspoor
Don Byas
Jimmy Parsons
Michiel de Ruyter
Nick van den Bosom
Peter Ypma
Rob Langereis
Ton van Wageningen

21st Festival on Wheels
4- Jazz Goes To Movies