Tenor Saxophonist and composer Michael Webster manages to reside comfortably in the crease of New-York-style instrumental improvisational music while maintaining an eclecticism and sincerity all his own. The same can be said of Webster as of his contemporaries Dave Douglas and Vijay Iyer – that he is not merely a musician but a facilitator of musical collaborations in whole greater than the sum of their parts and that he truly plays not only the horn, but the band.
A native of Ottawa, Canada, and son of a University of Ottawa music professor and a National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada violist, Webster releases his second solo album, Momentus, this year. His first, Leading Lines, received round praise for its sophisticated take on accessible material. Webster is known for his love of Afro- Latin music and extensive collaborations with some of its most luminary exponents, including William Cepeda, Arturo O’Farrill, and John Benitez, and the influence is audible in Leading Lines. Momentus exhibits elements of Webster’s trademark style, but is notably different, building upon the artist’s experience in the intervening years.
Webster, whose initial move to New York City was made possible by a $20,000 J.B.C Watkins Award from the Canada Council for the Arts, graduated from Manhattan School of Music in 2004. The same year he had begun collaborating with legendary trombonist and percussionist William Cepeda, who recognized Webster’s particular genius for fleshing, transforming, and orchestrating basic melodic kernels, and hired him to arrange for and play saxophone in his band, which toured Puerto Rico in April and May of 2004. In 2009 Cepeda and Webster produced Posesión, a concert length piece for big band and strings adapted from Cepeda’s ideas.