Ben Webster’s last concert, Leiden 6 September 1973


Towards the end of Ben Webster’s very last concert in 1973,  Ben asked Bob Rigter to play the blues on his instrument. This happened in jazz café De Twee Spieghels, Nieuwstraat, Leiden, on 6 September. It appears that Ben felt his end approaching, and he wanted some time out. Irv Rochlin was the pianist, Henk Haverhoek  played the bass and Peter Ypma the drums. With this rhythm section, Bob played the blues on Webster’s ‘Betsy’, a Selmer Balanced Action with a rather wide Otto Link mouthpiece and what felt like a 3 or 3½ reed. After his instrument was handed back to him, Ben played one more piece. Then he got to his feet and made a little speech. He wanted to pass on what an old man had said to him when he was young: ‘You are young and growing, and I am old and going. So have your fun while you can.’  He repeated this: ‘Son, you are young and growing, and I am old and going. So have your fun while you can.’ The next day Ben was taken to the St Lucas Hospital in Amsterdam, where he died on 20 September 1973.

A detailed, fully historical description of the night of the last concert is to be found in Bob Rigter’s novel Jazz in de Oostzee, pp. 99-106. A Leiden student made an amateur cassette recording of parts of Ben’s last concert. The recording was poor, but, because of its historical interest, issued on Last concert Ben Webster, EMI Bovema 1973, 5 C 178-24964/5.

Simon Rigter, now a prominent young tenor saxophonist, was prenatally present at Ben’s last concert. He was born on the day Webster died. In a review of a jazz festival in Jamaica, Down Beat (Sept.’98) describes Simon as a ‘strong tenor saxist’. At the North Sea Jazz Festival 2000, Simon played a concert with George Coleman and Alvin Queen. He can be heard on 11 cd-s, one of these a live cd with trombonist Curtis Fuller. Click Simon Rigter for further (discographic) details.

Unique photographs of Ben Webster’s last concert on this website

Bob Rigter’s wife Jasperina took unique photographs of Ben Webster’s last concert. To see these photographs, click Ben Webster.