James P. Johnson: What Is This Thing Called Love
What is This Thing Called Love
James P. Johnson (piano)
Snowy Morning Blues (Decca GRD-604)
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