[Today: Ben Webster sparks a blue flame...]
It’s deserving of recognition for the title alone, but Atmosphere For Lovers And Thieves has much more going for it than just a catchy handle. As one might justifiably expect, the sound that comes pouring out of the album’s grooves is two parts sultry and one part blue smoke. The music moves at a slow purr throughout – lovers and thieves can’t afford to be hurried, after all.
Ben Webster was 56 years old when these sessions took place (1965), but he plays with the smoldering intensity of a man half that age. Webster tended to round the edge off the notes that spilled from his saxophone, but here his sound goes well beyond laid back and into sensual. He plays with the slightest slur that signifies intoxication, but not sloppiness.
Pianist Kenny Drew and band provide a solid framework that Webster burns down time and again. Album opener ‘Blue Light’ and standard ‘Stardust’ are two highlights, but all of Atmosphere For Lovers And Thieves sounds like half past closing time inside a club in the best part of town.
The music backs up the fantastic style of the album’s come-hither title, conjuring visions of cat burglars and playboys and reckless power brokers. Listen in as they ply their nefarious trades in the deepest smoke-filled corners of the universe, throughout the dead of night. Lovers and thieves work best in hushed tones, long after dark, and so does Ben Webster.
Listen: Blue Light