ART TATUM
Swing • United States

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Arthur Tatum, Jr. (1909-10-13 – 1956-11-05) was a famous American jazz pianist known for his virtuosic playing and creative improvisation.

Tatum drew inspiration from his contemporaries James P. Johnson and Fats Waller, and had a great influence on other famous jazz pianists, such as Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Chick Corea, and Oscar Peterson. Saxophonist Charlie Parker took his first job in New York as a dishwasher where Tatum played, just for the experience of hearing Tatum's harmonic inventions.

Tatum was widely recognized among his colleagues as the most gifted jazz pianist alive, some going so far as to say he was one of the greatest pianists of any genre. Such classical luminaries as Vladimir Horowitz and Sergei Rachmaninov greatly admired his technique. Unusually for a jazz musician, Tatum rarely abandoned the original melodic lines of the songs he played, preferring innovative reharmonization (changing the chord progressions that supported the melodies).
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ART TATUM Solos 1937 LP 12 Track  US Alamac ART TATUM Solos 1937 LP 12 Track US Alamac USD $7.87 Buy It Now 1h 48m
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ART TATUM, HIS RAREST PIANO SOLOS - ITALY LP ARLP12023 ART TATUM, HIS RAREST PIANO SOLOS - ITALY LP ARLP12023 USD $15.00 Buy It Now 3h
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ART TATUM Live sessions 1940/1941 ART TATUM Live sessions 1940/1941 USD $12.01 Buy It Now 3h
The Genius of Art Tatum #2 vinyl LP VG Clef Records [David Stone Martin] The Genius of Art Tatum #2 vinyl LP VG Clef Records [David Stone Martin] USD $9.95 Buy It Now 3h
ART TATUM Solo Masterpieces Vol 11 LP Pablo EX/EX ART TATUM Solo Masterpieces Vol 11 LP Pablo EX/EX USD $7.44 Buy It Now 3h
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ART TATUM, Discoveries LP ART TATUM, Discoveries LP USD $11.95 Buy It Now 4h
Various Artists ART OF JAZZ PIANO - Art Tatum EPIC LN 3295 MONO Various Artists ART OF JAZZ PIANO - Art Tatum EPIC LN 3295 MONO USD $7.99 Buy It Now 5h
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Piano Modern COMPILATION ART TATUM JAZZ BOP Piano Modern COMPILATION ART TATUM JAZZ BOP USD $8.00 (0 bids)
6h
Art Tatum - The Art Of Art JAZZ 1966 MONO VINYL LP Art Tatum - The Art Of Art JAZZ 1966 MONO VINYL LP USD $8.00 (0 bids)
6h
ART TATUM - PIANO GRAND MASTER [BOX] - NEW CD BOXSET ART TATUM - PIANO GRAND MASTER [BOX] - NEW CD BOXSET USD $16.51 Buy It Now 7h
ART TATUM TRIO Footnotes To Jazz Vol 2 FOLKWAYS *NMint* SLAM STEWART Tiny Grimes ART TATUM TRIO Footnotes To Jazz Vol 2 FOLKWAYS *NMint* SLAM STEWART Tiny Grimes USD $9.99 (0 bids)
8h
ART TATUM MASTERPIECES VOL II & JAMES P JOHNSON PLAYS FATS WALLER DBL LP  NM ART TATUM MASTERPIECES VOL II & JAMES P JOHNSON PLAYS FATS WALLER DBL LP NM USD $12.00 Buy It Now 9h
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** THREE GIANTS ** Art Tatum - Benny Carter - Louis Bellson * Yellow Verve Clef* ** THREE GIANTS ** Art Tatum - Benny Carter - Louis Bellson * Yellow Verve Clef* USD $10.00 Buy It Now 10h
Art  Tatum Trio – Topsy /Soft Winds - 12 Inch 78 Jazz Record - Asch  452-2    E- Art Tatum Trio – Topsy /Soft Winds - 12 Inch 78 Jazz Record - Asch 452-2 E- USD $4.95 Buy It Now 10h
ART TATUM**SOLO MASTERPIECES: VOL. 1 (BONUS TRACKS)**CD ART TATUM**SOLO MASTERPIECES: VOL. 1 (BONUS TRACKS)**CD USD $6.50 Buy It Now 10h
ERROLL GARNER ART TATUM KINGS OF THE KEYBOARD LP JAZZ ERROLL GARNER ART TATUM KINGS OF THE KEYBOARD LP JAZZ USD $10.00 Buy It Now 11h
Art Tatum 10 inch same title Art Tatum 10 inch same title USD $11.99 Buy It Now 11h
Art Tatum - The Tatum Touch - Rare Columbia 10 Art Tatum - The Tatum Touch - Rare Columbia 10" LP USD $4.00 (0 bids)
12h
JAZZ LP Art Tatum #5 on CLEF 618 dg original JAZZ LP Art Tatum #5 on CLEF 618 dg original USD $9.99 (0 bids)
12h
ART TATUM - ART TATUM AT THE CRESCENDO NEW CD ART TATUM - ART TATUM AT THE CRESCENDO NEW CD USD $20.31 Buy It Now 12h
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ART TATUM-THE TATUM GROUP MASTERPIECES-JAPAN CD BONUS TRACK Ltd/Ed B63 ART TATUM-THE TATUM GROUP MASTERPIECES-JAPAN CD BONUS TRACK Ltd/Ed B63 USD $12.99 Buy It Now 13h
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 Art Tatum Benny Carter Louis Bellson ‎– The Tatum Group Masterpieces Vol. 1 LP Art Tatum Benny Carter Louis Bellson ‎– The Tatum Group Masterpieces Vol. 1 LP USD $9.00 Buy It Now 1 day
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G.I. JUKEBOX - V.A. CD - ART TATUM,  LOUIS JORDAN, MILLS BROS. - STILL SEALED G.I. JUKEBOX - V.A. CD - ART TATUM, LOUIS JORDAN, MILLS BROS. - STILL SEALED USD $12.95 Buy It Now 1 day
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Art Tatum LP Vinyl Art Tatum LP Vinyl USD $16.00 (0 bids)
1 day
Piano Starts Here by Art Tatum (CD, Sep-1995, Sony Music Distribution (USA) Piano Starts Here by Art Tatum (CD, Sep-1995, Sony Music Distribution (USA) USD $5.99 Buy It Now 1 day
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Art Tatum Art Tatum "Piano Starts Here" 1987 Columbia LP USD $12.99 Buy It Now 1 day
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THE ESSENTIAL ART TATUM Vinyl LP, Original 1962 Verve MAS-90741, SHIPS U.S. FREE THE ESSENTIAL ART TATUM Vinyl LP, Original 1962 Verve MAS-90741, SHIPS U.S. FREE USD $16.14 Buy It Now 1 day
Jazz ART TATUM - ROY ELDRIDGE Tatum Group Masterpieces  NM! ORIG  EB188 Jazz ART TATUM - ROY ELDRIDGE Tatum Group Masterpieces NM! ORIG EB188 USD $12.99 Buy It Now 1 day
Art Tatum: the Tatum Solo Masterpieces Vol. 9 Pablo 3210-835 Art Tatum: the Tatum Solo Masterpieces Vol. 9 Pablo 3210-835 USD $10.00 Buy It Now 1 day
ART TATUM Pieces of Eight SEALED gatefold LP Smithsonian Collection ART TATUM Pieces of Eight SEALED gatefold LP Smithsonian Collection USD $5.00 (0 bids)
1 day
Art Tatum – Legacy – Ember CJS 848 – LP Vinyl Record Art Tatum – Legacy – Ember CJS 848 – LP Vinyl Record USD $15.31 Buy It Now 1 day
Art Tatum – Art Tatum At The Crescendo Vol Two – GNP 9026 – LP Vinyl Record Art Tatum – Art Tatum At The Crescendo Vol Two – GNP 9026 – LP Vinyl Record USD $19.14 Buy It Now 1 day
Art  Tatum, Ben Webster, red Callender  THE ART TATUM-BEN WEBSTER QUARTET Art Tatum, Ben Webster, red Callender THE ART TATUM-BEN WEBSTER QUARTET USD $9.95 Buy It Now 1 day
COLEMAN HAWKINS Live Vol 4 Roy Eldridge Art Tatum Oscar Pettiford Sid Catlett LP COLEMAN HAWKINS Live Vol 4 Roy Eldridge Art Tatum Oscar Pettiford Sid Catlett LP USD $19.97 Buy It Now 1 day
RARE Art Tatum 45 rpm EP with pic sleeve CAE 419 RCA jazz RARE Art Tatum 45 rpm EP with pic sleeve CAE 419 RCA jazz USD $9.99 (0 bids)
1 day
Piano Greats ERROL GARNER with Art Tatum & Mike Di Napoli vinyl record Piano Greats ERROL GARNER with Art Tatum & Mike Di Napoli vinyl record USD $14.95 Buy It Now 1 day
ART TATUM Complete Capitol Recordings 2 CD BLUE NOTE 1997 Reissue 29 tracks ART TATUM Complete Capitol Recordings 2 CD BLUE NOTE 1997 Reissue 29 tracks USD $12.95 Buy It Now 1 day
THE TATUM GROUP MASTERPIECES-VOL. 4- ART TATUM- MINT CD THE TATUM GROUP MASTERPIECES-VOL. 4- ART TATUM- MINT CD USD $7.95 Buy It Now 1 day
JAZZTONE SOCIETY JAZZ SAMPLER-1955 JAZZTONE 10 JAZZTONE SOCIETY JAZZ SAMPLER-1955 JAZZTONE 10" LP-CHARLIE PARKER-ART TATUM- M- USD $20.00 (0 bids)
USD $35.00 Buy It Now
1 day
ART TATUM Trio Brunswick Ten inch lp ART TATUM Trio Brunswick Ten inch lp USD $9.99 Buy It Now 1 day
THE GREAT JAZZ PIANISTS:OSCAR PETERSON~ART TATUM~BILL EVANS~ANDRE PREVIN CD THE GREAT JAZZ PIANISTS:OSCAR PETERSON~ART TATUM~BILL EVANS~ANDRE PREVIN CD USD $1.49 (0 bids)
1 day
ART TATUM Encores Ten inch lp ART TATUM Encores Ten inch lp USD $19.99 Buy It Now 1 day
Art Tatum  Piano Magic  Phoenix10 Records PHX 313  VG++ Art Tatum Piano Magic Phoenix10 Records PHX 313 VG++ USD $4.99 Buy It Now 1 day
CD: The Definitive ART TATUM 2002 Blue Note ~^*^~ Jazz Piano Master Musician CD: The Definitive ART TATUM 2002 Blue Note ~^*^~ Jazz Piano Master Musician USD $7.77 Buy It Now 1 day
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USD $13.00 Buy It Now
1 day
ART TATUM - THE ART TATUM SOLO MASTERPIECES, VOL. 7 - NEW CD ART TATUM - THE ART TATUM SOLO MASTERPIECES, VOL. 7 - NEW CD USD $14.39 Buy It Now 1 day
ART TATUM Masterpieces 2LP Leonard Feather Series NM ART TATUM Masterpieces 2LP Leonard Feather Series NM USD $19.95 Buy It Now 1 day
ART TATUM Runnin' Wild/Yesterdays ARA 4503 classic PIANO JAZZ 78rpm 10 ART TATUM Runnin' Wild/Yesterdays ARA 4503 classic PIANO JAZZ 78rpm 10" single USD $7.29 Buy It Now 1 day
Art Tatum God Is In The House 1972 US Vinyl Mono LP Onyx Art Tatum God Is In The House 1972 US Vinyl Mono LP Onyx USD $2.99 (0 bids)
1 day
ART TATUM - CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION [ART TATUM] - NEW CD ART TATUM - CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION [ART TATUM] - NEW CD USD $11.60 Buy It Now 1 day
Masterpieces 1938-1939 - Art Tatum CD Masterpieces 1938-1939 - Art Tatum CD USD $3.27 Buy It Now 1 day
ART TATUM - God Is In The House ~ VINYL LP ART TATUM - God Is In The House ~ VINYL LP USD $17.64 Buy It Now 1 day
THE ART TATUM TRIO-THE ART TATUM TRIO CLP-047 10 THE ART TATUM TRIO-THE ART TATUM TRIO CLP-047 10" Y8808 USD $23.80 (0 bids)
1 day
EARL HINES - THE SWING PIANO W/ ART TATUM & TEDDY WILSON VG+ NM (STORYVILLE) LP EARL HINES - THE SWING PIANO W/ ART TATUM & TEDDY WILSON VG+ NM (STORYVILLE) LP USD $14.95 Buy It Now 1 day
Art Tatum - Live 1944-1952, Vol. 9 (Live Recording, 2005) Art Tatum - Live 1944-1952, Vol. 9 (Live Recording, 2005) USD $8.94 Buy It Now 1 day
ART TATUM .....HIS RAREST SOLOS...L.P ART TATUM .....HIS RAREST SOLOS...L.P USD $2.99 (0 bids)
1 day
ART TATUM 'THE ART OF TATUM' GERMAN IMPORT LP ART TATUM 'THE ART OF TATUM' GERMAN IMPORT LP USD $12.01 Buy It Now 1 day
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ART TATUM - PIANO SOLOS EX NM (JAZZ PIANO) LP ART TATUM - PIANO SOLOS EX NM (JAZZ PIANO) LP USD $14.95 Buy It Now 1 day
ART TATUM-2CD SET-THE QUINTESSENCE-NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES 1933-1945 -- 36 TRACKS ART TATUM-2CD SET-THE QUINTESSENCE-NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES 1933-1945 -- 36 TRACKS USD $4.49 Buy It Now 1 day
1976 ART TATUM WORKS OF ART LP-JAZZ RECORDS-101-VINYL N. MINT COVER-VG+ 1976 ART TATUM WORKS OF ART LP-JAZZ RECORDS-101-VINYL N. MINT COVER-VG+ USD $6.99 Buy It Now 1 day
Art Tatum : Vol. 2 - Fine and Dandy: Original Recordings 1937 - 1944 CD (2004) Art Tatum : Vol. 2 - Fine and Dandy: Original Recordings 1937 - 1944 CD (2004) USD $9.89 Buy It Now 1 day
 Sensual Jazz Billie Holiday, Ruth Etting, Art Tatum 2 CD Set Like New Sensual Jazz Billie Holiday, Ruth Etting, Art Tatum 2 CD Set Like New USD $9.95 Buy It Now 1 day
ART TATUM Tatum Solo Masterpieces Vol 2 LP 9 Track Sleeve Has Holles Punched On ART TATUM Tatum Solo Masterpieces Vol 2 LP 9 Track Sleeve Has Holles Punched On USD $9.98 Buy It Now 1 day
ART TATUM-THE LEGENDARY jazz LP ART TATUM-THE LEGENDARY jazz LP USD $9.98 Buy It Now 1 day
"The Jazz Piano World of" Erroll Gerner,Art Tatum,Billy Taylor,Bud Powell LP USD $6.50 Buy It Now 2 days
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9 Classic Albums - Art Tatum9 Classic Albums - Art Tatum
Import
Real Gone Jazz 2014
Audio CD$9.12
$8.86 (used)
Piano Starts Here: Live at the Shrine - ZenphPiano Starts Here: Live at the Shrine - Zenph
Hybrid SACD - DSD
Sony Classical 2008
Audio CD$8.43
$5.24 (used)
Solo MasterpiecesSolo Masterpieces
Import
Imports 2011
Audio CD$26.09
$33.61 (used)
Art Tatum & Ben Webster QuartetArt Tatum & Ben Webster Quartet
Import
Phoenix Spain 2012
Audio CD$6.91
$15.09 (used)
Solo Masterpieces 6Solo Masterpieces 6
Pablo 1994
Audio CD$6.89
$3.95 (used)
The Complete Pablo Group MasterpiecesThe Complete Pablo Group Masterpieces
Box set
Pablo 1991
Audio CD$43.99
$83.23 (used)
Best of the Pablo Solo MasterpiecesBest of the Pablo Solo Masterpieces
Pablo 2003
Audio CD$5.54
$2.51 (used)
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ART TATUM Discography

ART TATUM albums / top albums

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Decca Presents Art Tatum
Swing 1940
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Art Tatum Trio
Swing 1944
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Piano Solos Album
Swing 1945
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Art Tatum
Swing 1950
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Piano Solos With Rhythm Accompaniment
Swing 1950
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Encores
Swing 1951
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Gene Norman's "Just Jazz"
Swing 1951
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Art Tatum Trio
Swing 1953
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Genius Of Art Tatum #1
Swing 1954
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Genius Of Art Tatum # 2
Swing 1954
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Genius Of Art Tatum #3
Swing 1954
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Genius Of Art Tatum # 4
Swing 1954
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Genius of Art Tatum #5
Swing 1954
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Genius Of Art Tatum #6
Swing 1954
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Genius Of Art Tatum # 7
Swing 1954
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Genius Of Art Tatum #8
Swing 1954
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Genius of Art Tatum #9
Swing 1954
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Genius of Art Tatum #10
Swing 1954
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Tatum, Carter, Bellson
Swing 1954
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Here's Art Tatum
Swing 1955
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume 1 (feat. Benny Carter, Louis Bellson)
Swing 1955
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume 2
Swing 1955
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The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume 3
Swing 1955
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume 4
Swing 1955
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume 5
Swing 1955
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Genius Of Art Tatum Number Eleven
Swing 1955
.. Album Cover 5.00 | 1 ratings
The Art Tatum - Ben Webster Quartet
Swing 1956
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Touch
Swing 1956
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Vol. 6
Swing 1956
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume 7
Swing 1956
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume 8
Swing 1956
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Art of Tatum
Swing 1958
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Greatest Of Them All
Swing 1959
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
In Person
Swing 1960
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Art Tatum (1965)
Swing 1965
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Art Of Art
Swing 1966
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Art!
Swing 1967
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Art Tatum, Red Callender, Jo Jones
Swing 1975
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
God Is in the House: Original 1940-41 Recordings
Swing 1999

ART TATUM EPs & splits

.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Embraceable You
Swing 1955

ART TATUM live albums

.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
An Art Tatum Concert Plus His First Three Recorded Solos
Swing 1957

ART TATUM demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

ART TATUM boxset & compilations

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The King And Queen Of Jazz Piano (with Mary Lou Williams )
Swing 1958
.. Album Cover 5.00 | 2 ratings
Piano Starts Here
Swing 1968
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best of Art Tatum
Swing 1987
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The V-Discs
Swing 1989
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The Complete Capitol Recordings, Volume 1
Swing 1989
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The Complete Capitol Recordings, Volume 2
Swing 1989
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Chronological Classics: Art Tatum 1932-1934
Swing 1990
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Solos (1940)
Swing 1990
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Standards
Swing 1990
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The Chronological Classics: Art Tatum 1934-1940
Swing 1991
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Complete Pablo Solo Masterpieces
Swing 1991
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Classic Early Solos (1934-1937)
Swing 1991
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The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Volume 1
Swing 1992
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The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Volume 2
Swing 1992
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The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Volume 3
Swing 1992
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Volume 4
Swing 1992
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Volume 5
Swing 1992
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Volume 6
Swing 1992
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Volume 7
Swing 1992
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Volume 8
Swing 1992
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Fine and Dandy
Swing 1994
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The Chronological Classics: Art Tatum 1944
Swing 1995
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The Art of Tatum
Swing 1995
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An Introduction to Art Tatum: His Best Recordings 1933-1944
Swing 1995
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The Chronological Classics: Art Tatum 1940-1944
Swing 1995
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20th Century Piano Genius
Swing 1996
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Body and Soul
Swing 1996
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The Complete Capitol Recordings
Swing 1997
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Ultimate Art Tatum
Swing 1999
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Midnite Jazz & Blues: Cocktails for Two
Swing 1999
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The Chronological Classics: Art Tatum 1945-1947
Swing 1999
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Art Tatum's Finest Hour
Swing 2000
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Over the Rainbow
Swing 2000
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1949
Swing 2000
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Art Tatum: Complete Original American Decca Recordings
Swing 2001
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The Definitive Art Tatum
Swing 2002
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Hall of Fame
Swing 2002
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Hold That Tiger!
Swing 2002
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Quintessence
Swing 2002
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best of the Complete Pablo Solo Masterpieces
Swing 2003
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Piano Grand Master
Swing 2003
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Genius of Art Tatum
Swing 2006
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Piano Starts Here / Live At The Shrine
Swing 2008
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Performance: Solo Piano Recordings From 1933 to 1952
Swing 2010

ART TATUM singles (0)

ART TATUM movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

ART TATUM Reviews

ART TATUM Piano Starts Here

Boxset / Compilation · 1968 · Swing
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For most of my life Art Tatum was just another name to me. I worked in a few record stores back in the 70s to make ends meet (during spells when my chosen field of work, creating music, didn’t) and he was just one on a list of long-gone artists who populated the jazz bins. It wasn’t until I saw and heard a brief snippet of him in Ken Burns’ excellent documentary on the genre that I got a taste of his piano wizardry. As I eagerly absorbed all I could of that in-depth history of jazz I was introduced to a myriad of great artists that I knew little about but none electrified me the way Mr. Tatum did. I simply couldn’t fathom what I was listening to and knew that I had to hear more. It took a while but I finally started my journey of discovery when my son gave me “Piano Starts Here” for a Christmas present. Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed in what it contains.

I understand why this giant of jazz may not be familiar to you. Born in Toledo in 1909, he had everything going against his ever being successful, much less noticed. He was a black man, he was almost totally blind, he was overweight, he played strictly by ear and most of the time he worked solo in an era when jazz was still considered a novelty unless it was being presented in a big band format. But even before he turned 20, by word of mouth, Art was acknowledged as a genuine prodigy and luminaries such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong went out of their way to see him whenever they toured through Ohio. While backing singer Adelaide Hall he made his way to New York and, in 1933, recorded four tunes for the Brunswick label. After that what had been rumor grew to become an accepted fact among pianists from both the jazz and classical sides who knew a unique virtuoso when they heard one. Many concurred that Art Tatum was the greatest piano player who ever lived. I know that’s a lofty designation but it’s one confirmed by the likes of Oscar Peterson and Vladimir Horowitz. As respected music critic Leonard Feather wrote in ’68, “We are fortunate to have lived in a century that could produce even one Art Tatum.” Lend an ear to the 13 tracks on this CD and you’ll better understand the cause for his praise.

It starts with his first studio sessions from March of ’33. At first glance “Tea for Two” might cause you to smirk sarcastically but his rendition reminds me of a memorable scene in the movie “Amadeus.” Court composer Salieri toiled for weeks to prepare a short piece in honor of Mozart’s anticipated visit to the king’s palace but after hearing it only once the young man vamps on the simple theme grandly, elevating it into a much more complex and intricate etude on the spot. Salieri is floored in awe. I have no doubt that many proficient pianists felt likewise upon hearing his spectacular version of this old chestnut. During “St. Louis Blues” I detect no delay or interruption between what Art’s imaginative mind envisioned and what his nimble fingers produced. His jazzy, impressionistic intro for “Tiger Rag” throws you for a loop before he suddenly roars into the number with the ferocity and blinding speed of a fighter jet. His take on Ellington’s classic “Sophisticated Lady” is so graceful yet so inventive that if he’d been playing it in a restaurant you were dining at you’d never have gotten around to eating because you would’ve been so thoroughly entranced by his elegant mastery. It’s hard to believe that this brand of jazz was recorded in 1933.

The remaining nine cuts were taped live in the spring of ’49 at the “Just Jazz” concert held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. If anything he’s even more phenomenal! Opening with “How High the Moon,” he demonstrates that his smooth articulations had deepened, his harmonic daring was breathtaking, he was still quick as a spooked hare and his innate timing is beyond belief. When he performs Dvorak’s “Humoresque” he utilizes all 88 keys equally and I confess that I’ve never heard anyone else’s phrasing that can top his fluid approach. He could change the entire mood at the drop of a hat. Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” follows and his introductory flourish gives the impression that he’s either amusing himself or toying with the audience (or both) but what he does with one of my all-time favorite melodies defies description. On the gem “Yesterdays” his uncanny gift for dynamics is on full display as incidental trills, brisk runs and abstract intrusions come zipping in from all directions without warning. By the time you get to “I Know That You Know” it sinks into your brain that you’re experiencing the talents of a bonafide keyboard savant doing things effortlessly that 99.99% of his peers could never pull off on their best day. Of this number Feather commented, “He tears into the standard at a breakneck pace, later halves the time and finally doubles up again, with a tongue-in-cheek ending that shows the sly sense of humor that informed so much of his work.”

“Willow Weep for Me” is the next classic song to receive the Tatum treatment as he decorates this oft-covered ditty with unbelievable showers of glittery arpeggios. As if he’d gotten bored, he plunges headlong into his own “Tatum Pole Boogie” with its eight-to-the-bar and octave-jumping bass patterns that’ll make your head spin like Linda Blair. It’s speed-demon stuff, for sure, but one is struck by the delicate touch he applies that stands in clear contrast to the heavy-handed techniques of the boogie-woogie pioneers. The calmer “The Kerry Dance” is the shortest cut but it’s also the most humorous in that it’s like he was sharing an inside joke with the crowd. The liner notes relate that it was often employed as a playful encore for his club act when the patrons wouldn’t let him go. He ends with Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” wherein he stupefies all in attendance with cascades of notes that thrill and delight. His was an amazing artistry, indeed.

Feather told of hearing Art one particular night in the mid 40s at New York’s tiny Three Deuces packed with pianists. Duke Ellington was there and “declared himself too overwhelmed to express his feelings.” Eddie Heywood, one of the top piano names of the day, was quoted as saying “The more I hear him the more convinced I am that I’d better quit playing and drive a truck.” None other than Charlie Parker once took a job as a dishwasher at a joint in Harlem just so he could hear him improvise nightly. At one point Tatum tried to expand his visibility by forming a trio but found no drummer or bassist that could keep up with him so he resigned himself to being a one-man force of nature. Art died of kidney failure at age 46 but thanks to the preservation of recordings such as this one we can share in his genius. Feather put it bluntly. “The feeling then, and it prevails to this day among thousands of musicians, was that Art Tatum represented the apotheosis of jazz improvisation. He was the greatest soloist in jazz history, regardless of instrument.” Chew on that a while and then get this CD. You’ll probably find yourself agreeing with his assessment.

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