Personnel: Joe Williams (vocals); Ben Webster (tenor saxophone); Junior Mance (piano); Bob Cranshaw (double bass); Mickey Roker (drums).
Liner Note Author: Joel Dorn.
This CD fills an important gap in the discographies of both Joe Williams and Ben Webster. While Williams was in town for a week-long gig at Pio's in Providence, Rhode Island, he and his group (pianist Junior Mance, bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Mickey Roker) were surprised to find Ben Webster in the club one night, so he was invited to sit in. A tape of this performance was given to Williams afterwards, though nothing happened until after the singer's widow gave it to Hamilton College, which finally contacted Hyena about issuing it. Everyone on the date is in terrific form and it turns out that this show was recorded on the very same night as Webster's Enja album Live at Pio's. Williams is masterful throughout the evening, inserting a touch of humor to his receptive and attentive audience as he glides effortlessly through the set. Although he confesses to not knowing all of the lyrics to a request ("That's All"), he tackles it anyway. The vocalist is especially complemented by Webster's robust tenor in a sensitive ballad like "A Hundred Years From Today" or a mid-tempo swinger like "Just A-Sittin' and A-Rockin'." It's hard to pick highlights, but Williams carries off his signature tune in great fashion. Like many club recordings made in the mid-'60s, the sound quality of the rhythm section is a tad muddy, but any fan of Joe Williams will easily adjust to it and groove along with the masterful singer and his special guest. Highly recommended. ~ Ken Dryden