Art Tatum: Deep Night
Art Tatum (piano)
The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Vol. 7 (Pablo 2405-430-2)
Red Callender (bass), Bill Douglas (drums).
Composed by Rudy Vallee and Charles Henderson.
Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, Feb. 6, 1956
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
The final two Tatum Group Masterpieces sessions occurred in 1956, the year of Tatum's death, and were polar opposites. Ben Webster chose to play sparsely and with unadorned lyricism, his effectiveness centered around his unbeatably warm and beautiful tenor sound. On the other hand, Buddy DeFranco (despite nursing a bad cold) challenged Tatum at his own game--intricate thematic and harmonic embellishments and variations--a gutsy decision by one of the most virtuosic of all jazz clarinetists. Although no one could ever quite match Tatum, and the pianist rarely gave an inch, DeFranco in his bop-influenced style succeeds more than anyone might have imagined.
The sinuous melody and rich harmonies of "Deep Night" made it an apt choice for exploration by Tatum and DeFranco. Tatum's glittering intro is followed by DeFranco's ardent treatment of the theme, crisply supported by Red Callender and Bill Douglas. Tatum's comping is typically dominated by a steady flow of arpeggios rather than more selective chords, but manages to remain unobtrusive. The pianist's solo features blistering, mercurial runs and dexterous bass figures. DeFranco seems to pattern his own solo after Tatum's, and his daring, technically polished lines are absorbing enough so as not to be overwhelmed by the simultaneous improvisation that Tatum appears to be spinning. The most thrilling moments come when DeFranco boldly chases Tatum's phrases and the two weave a magic spell of arpeggiated flurries. What may sound simply ornate to some listeners should instead be rightfully acknowledged and admired as intrinsic to the approaches of these two masters.
Reviewer: Scott Albin