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Art Tatum

Art Tatum was among the most extraordinary of all jazz musicians, a pianist with wondrous technique who could not only play ridiculously rapid lines with both hands (his 1933 solo version of "Tiger Rag" sounds as if there were three pianists jamming together) but was harmonically 30 years ahead of his time; all pianists have to deal to a certain extent with Tatum's innovations in order to be taken seriously. Able to play stride, swing, and boogie-woogie with speed and complexity that could only previously be imagined, Tatum's quick reflexes and boundless imagination kept his improvisations filled with fresh (and sometimes futuristic) ideas that put him way ahead of his contemporaries.

Born nearly blind, Tatum gained some formal piano training at the Toledo School of Music but was largely self-taught. Although influenced a bit by Fats Waller and the semi-classical pianists of the 1920s, there is really no explanation for where Tatum gained his inspiration and ideas from. He first played professionally in Toledo in the mid-'20s and had a radio show during 1929-1930. In 1932 Tatum traveled with singer Adelaide Hall to New York and made his recording debut accompanying Hall (as one of two pianists). But for those who had never heard him in person, it was his solos of 1933 (including "Tiger Rag") that announced the arrival of a truly major talent. In the 1930s, Tatum spent periods working in Cleveland, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and (in 1938) England. Although he led a popular trio with guitarist Tiny Grimes (later Everett Barksdale) and bassist Slam Stewart in the mid-'40s, Tatum spent most of his life as a solo pianist who could always scare the competition. Some observers criticized him for having too much technique (is such a thing possible?), working out and then keeping the same arrangements for particular songs, and for using too many notes, but those minor reservations pale when compared to Tatum's reworkings of such tunes as "Yesterdays," "Begin the Beguine," and even "Humoresque." Although he was not a composer, Tatum's rearrangements of standards made even warhorses sound like new compositions.

Art Tatum, who recorded for Decca throughout the 1930s and Capitol in the late '40s, starred at the Esquire Metropolitan Opera House concert of 1944 and appeared briefly in his only film in 1947, The Fabulous Dorseys (leading a jam session on a heated blues). He recorded extensively for Norman Granz near the end of his life in the 1950s, both solo and with all-star groups; all of the music has been reissued by Pablo on a six-CD box set. His premature death from uremia has not resulted in any loss of fame, for Art Tatum's recordings still have the ability to scare modern pianists. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Willow Weep For Me

Disc 1
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Disc 4

Comments

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I lived about 20 miles from the Hollywood Bowl in 1956 when Tatum gave his last concert there, and I did not find out about it until decades later! I still grieve over that. I did see him in or about 1953 in concert at the University of Illinois. The reception was so uproarious that he was said to be unable to hold back tears after the concert. He was simply wonderful.
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Heart of playing
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My all time favorite of Tatum is Tea For Two. Absolutely fantastic.
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The art of appreciating gr8 music truly has no equal.
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My man , man!
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art tatum is the most
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Fantastic!
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When he played a bad piano in a club 1 nite, he picked up the 6 sticking keys after each time struck and the audience never knew.
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The Les Paul anecdote is great. He heard a Tatum record, went to see him live, then switched from piano to guitar forever from that night on. Waller adored Tatum, and would always acknowledge him (as God) when they visited each other in the clubs where they were playing. Art liked to sing the Blues but there is scarce little of it recorded. He usually stopped in to other clubs after his own gig was done for the night. Insomniac, or just longing always to be in musical company? There's a story o
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Mr. Tatum, thank you for being.
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antoniopenam d
Maybe the best jazz pianist I ever heard. He is a real genius!
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Art is truly something The Lord made he is the truth
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He made me love Jazz! Without discovering him I would've never dared to discover Monk!!! Love him for that!!!
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Art is filled with technique, style and just a natural grace and there is nothing wrong with that.
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I've been listening to Art since the middle 60's, and have never tired of him, he's so smooth..
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Truly a genius.
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According to his biography, the (now) renowned guitarist Les Paul was training to be a jazz pianist. He saw Tatum play once, and gave up that dream and took up the guitar.
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lexicogr
No rock guitarist ever claims to be better than Jimi Hendrix, no harp player says he's better than Little Walter... and no jazz pianist claims to be better than Tatum.
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Unarguably and undisputedly the greatest pianist of all time regardless of genre. I hate to say such things because there have been so many greats before and after, but Art is without verbal description. Even Oscar Peterson pales in comparison. When God speaks we must listen!
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Quite possibly the greatest piano player of all time and I agree with bigmacalifor n i a ' s comment below - if I did I'd be considered a virtuoso on my instrument.
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The man must have been born with twenty fingers!
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jorgemachado
I wish I had 1/10th the talent Art Tatum had.
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rick4303
Of the few who've really lit me up- Art is heart and soul above the rest; I can't say it any other way. Another (of course) is Chick, but not as well known, magical -and (unfortunate l y ) gone is custom Hammond B3 organist Dick Heintze- playing D.C. circuits (early to mid '70s) with guitar legends the likes of Danny Gatton & Roy Buchanan. "Dripping" with talent, his execution was precise, effortless - nothing short of insane. In tribute and quiet rememberance , I include his name here as well ..
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joe4101
Art Tatum was the very best & probably will always be. Turly a master of master(s).
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the best :)
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Answered your own question-can anybody outplay the King of the Stride Piano - don't think so. BF.
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smooooooooot h
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carolewinsto n
He is a genius. His technique is amazing!! Can anyone outplay Tatum? Nah.
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dr_rawilliam s _ j r
God just told me that if there is a booger on my window sill, then that is definitely a booger on that person's tooth. Ask me if there is a booger on my window sill.
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http://www.y o u t u b e . c o m / w a t c h ? v = M t v Y W m k L u O w
So kewl, so mellow, so perfect!
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The best of the best.
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Wow! Amazing!
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artalpert54
Art Tatum is, in my opinion, the best jazz piano player of all time.
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emilykkingst o n
My Grandpa used to listen to Art Tatum when I was a kid, and listening to Art always reminds me of my Grandpa.
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When Fats said God is in the house, it was an understatmen t . No one even comes close.First time you hear him you wonder Who are those guys.
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Where are the Pablo Group Masterpieces ? !
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Love that crazy sound. Art is a wonderful pianist.
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jabbb1
WOW! Unbelievable ! ! !
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Shake it up, break it up, take it in and let the music spin your ears! This is one great example of why I looooooooooo o o o o o o o o o v e Jazz.
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lemonhead97
This guy set the bar way up there. Four classically trained hands couldn't keep up with "The Art of Jazz"
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Wow! He can tickle that ivory!!! I'm not kidding. Not too many pianists can play like that!
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Art Tatum was very popular in France, before he became popular in the USA
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dsanborn4
upon my ears like leaves in early fall. my soul sighs "aah"
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HIS bIO MAKES HIM SEEM LIKE A VERY COOL PLAYER.
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ART TATUM AND EARL GARDNER ARE TWO OF THE BEST! I COULD LISTEN ALL DAY.
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Art Tatum is possible the best Jazz pianist that ever sat down in front of a piano. It is said that Oscar Peterson patterned his cord structures and style after this great musician. This may or may not be true, but Tatum was fabulous!

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