Art Tatum & Ben Webster: My Ideal
The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Vol. 8 (Pablo 2405431)
Bill Douglass (drums).
Composed by Newell Chase, Richard A.Whiting, and Leo Robin.
Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, Sept. 11, 1956
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
Ben Webster, who idolized Art Tatum, thought that the album he made with the virtuoso pianist in 1956 was his best ever. Of course, Webster also felt that on this date Tatum "really accompanied me.” He continued: “I believe that was a sign that he appreciated my playing, because I know certain records with other musicians where he just played on, from the beginning of the piece all the way to the end." Said producer Norman Granz: "During the session with Art Tatum, Art just could not get Ben to speed up. Ben just did his own thing. So up to a point, Art adapted to Ben there."
"My Ideal" seems to confirm the observations of both Webster and Granz. Tatum's initial rendition of the melody is, for him, sparse and restrained, containing embellishments that are far from ornate. Webster's subsequent playing of the theme is lifted by his broad, somewhat gruff, and cavernous tone, not unlike that of Coleman Hawkins, while Tatum's comping is focused and judicious. The tempo accelerates for Webster's solo, where the tenor's legato phrasing is unaffected, enticing, and to the point. Tatum's improvisation continues his relatively understated approach, with his technically marvelous runs still not nearly as convoluted as they often tended to become. Webster returns for the theme, again with Tatum offering complementary support rather than competing commentary. Here's a Tatum group track where the supporting efforts of a bassist and drummer—Red Callender and Bill Douglass—not only are noticed, but can be appreciated as well.
Reviewer: Scott Albin