James P. Johnson: What Is This Thing Called Love


What is This Thing Called Love



Snowy Morning Blues (Decca GRD-604)

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James P. Johnson (piano).

Composed by Cole Porter


Recorded: New York, January 21, 1930


Rating: 85/100 (learn more)

Only a few months after Cole Porter launched this tune as part of his 1929 musical Wake Up and Dream, James P. Johnson records this cover version in a stride adaptation. Johnson aims to transform Porter's minor key lament into a boisterous rent-party number. Jazz fans who are familiar with these chord changes as a springboard for bop pyrotechnics will find this Harlem piano version of the song a bit strange. "What Is This Thing Called Love" is not the best example of James P. Johnson's artistry -- check out his "Carolina Shout" or his classical works if you are new to this artist -- but even this track demonstrates the pianist's ability to put his own personal stamp on a popular standard.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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