Ben Webster was one of the greatest tenor players in the history of jazz. No one could swing harder, but no one could pull the heartstrings harder, either. Webster came into his own with Duke Ellington’s greatest band, in the early 40s, where he absorbed altoist Johnny Hodges’ masterful approach to melodic playing. Then, like many of his generation, Webster got better and better as he moved into middle age. The long- play era allowed him time to stretch out as a soloist, though in truth he didn’t even need it; there’s a great story of Big Ben sitting in on a club date with two monster saxophonists, Johnny Griffin and Anthony Braxton, and wiping both of them out after they had torn up the changes to “Cherokee,” just by playing the melody! The Soul Of Ben Webster captures the saxophonist in peak form, with a supporting cast that includes fellow tenorman Harold Ashby, an ideal rhythm section, and trumpeter Art Farmer, whose more modern approach to lyrical playing provides fascinating contrast. But Ben makes you forget all else when he gets into numbers like “Chelsea Bridge” and “When I Fall in Love.” His mastery of the ballad really is breathtaking.