Art Tatum – The Best The Music Knew by Auriel Rosenzweig - Ourboox.com
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Art Tatum – The Best The Music Knew

Member Since
Nov 2019
Published Books
2
Art Tatum – The Best The Music Knew by Auriel Rosenzweig - Ourboox.com

The first time I heard Art Tatum, was when I studied Jazz.

My piano teacher used to introduce me with the best Jazz musicians. He asked me to learn their solos, phrases, techniques or harmonies.

But one day he put a recording of Tatum. He didn’t ask me to learn his solos or to try analyze his phrases. Art Tatum is a magician, and I didn’t come to learn magic. He told me to sit back comfortably, and just listen.

So this is the only thing I’m asking from you. You’re not reading this book to learn, you’re doing it to be amazed. So sit back comfortably, and just listen.

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Let’s start with this masterpiece:

I didn’t call it a masterpiece just because that what it is. In 1992, almost 40 years after Tatum had died, an eight albums collection of the best of Art Tatum, had released and named The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces. I assure you each one of the songs in the collection really was a masterpiece.

But before talking about The years after Tatum’s death, lets go back to the beginning of the legend.

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Art (Arthur) Tatum Jr, was born in 1909 in Toledo, Ohio, USA.

From infancy, Tatum was visually impaired. When he was young, he had eye operations, which helped him seeing things that were close to him in his teens. However, by his early twenties, he became completely blind in his left eye, and had very limited vision in his right.

The Tatum family was regarded has a church-going family, and that exposed Art to church music in early age.

Tatum started playing piano from a young age. He had an outstanding memory and sense of pitch (probably a perfect pitch).

Tatum learned to play by ear from the radio, records and by copying piano roll recordings. After years of self-studying By the age of 15, Tatum had a formal piano lessons with Overton G. Rainey in his school. However, Rainey discouraged his students from learning Jazz and improvise. Therefore, Tatum probably mostly learned by himself.

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Art Tatum’s drew inspiration from other pianist of his time.

According to Tatum, his biggest influence was Fats Waller, a known stride pianist:

 

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Listen to Tatum’s version of the same song. Can you hear the influence he drew from Waller? Even though the stride technique is similar, we can also hear how Tatum wasn’t keeping the bass-chord structure of the stride, and yet kept the rhythmic feeling:

 

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We can’t talk about Tatum’s influences as a stride pianist, without talking about the “Father of Stride” – James P. Johnson:

 

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After listening to Johnson, here’s Tatum’s with few of his best stride performances. In my opinion, probably the best thing a human can do with the piano:

 

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While Waller considered to be Tatum’s biggest influence, according to Wikipedia, one of his favorite jazz pianists was Earl Hines:

 

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In Tatum’s version of the same song, do you notice the influence?

 

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Another one that considered as one of Tatum’s influences, is Lee Sims. Sims used to make piano rolls and it’s possible that Tatum learned from them.

Although Sims wasn’t a jazz musician, he did use harmonies which are very similar to those Tatum used:

 

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Can you hear the similarities between the two’s harmonies?

 

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One of my favorite myths about Tatum, is that because he was almost entirely blind, he found ways to reproduce four-hands piano rolls recordings, without knowing they were intended to be played by two pianists.

Tatum himself rejected this story. But is it really just a myth?

 

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Here’s a game for you. Play someone few seconds of the two pianist concert and few seconds of this Tatum recording, without telling them which of them is played by four hands, and which of them is played by only two. After doing this check, is it so hard to believe Tatum could play parts of two pianists?

 

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Here are some of my favorites Tatum’s solo recordings:

 

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And here are some of Tatum’s recordings with other musicians and instruments:

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Listen to Ray Charles talking to Clint Eastwood about Tatumת and about Oscar Peterson and Nat King Cole:

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And this is Peterson himself talking to the amazing Count Basie about Tatum:

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Let’s finish with this beautiful song:

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