Between late 1953 and his death three years later, pianist Art Tatum released something in the neighborhood of 20 albums with producer Norman Granz, ranging from marathon solo sessions to collaborations with giants like Lionel Hampton and Buddy Rich—a feat even if the music hadn’t turned out as well as it did.
Consisting primarily of standards (Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” Rodgers and Hart’s “Have You Met Miss Jones?”), Vol. 8, Tatum’s session with the tenor player Ben Webster, isn’t just a piece of history (this was Tatum’s last trip to the studio). It was an exemplary session unto itself, contrasting the famously ornamental Tatum—a player who once quipped that bands got in his way—with Webster’s mellow, unhurried approach, backed by drummer Bill Douglass and bassist Red Callender. Relaxed as the material is, Tatum remains his restlessly engaging self—just listen to Webster hold the melody on “All the Things You Are” while Tatum dazzles in the margins, a hummingbird dancing around a flower.