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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, Ian Lace, Peter Woolf, Colin Clarke


Art Tatum Piano

1. Tea For Two
2. St. Louis Blues
3. Tiger Rag
4. Sophisticated Lady
5. How High The Moon
6. Humoresque
7. Someone To Watch Over Me
8. Yesterdays
9. I Know That You Know
10. Willow Weep For Me
11. Tatum Poll Boogie
12. The Kerry Dance
13. The Man I Love

Tracks 1-4 March 21, 1933
Tracks 5-13 Recorded live in the spring of 1949, at the 'Just Jazz' Concert, presented by Gene Norman at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA

Probably all of the superlatives have been used and re-used to describe the phenomenon that is Art Tatum. Nevertheless, the more I listen to him, the more I realise, whether you like him or not, it cannot be denied that any praise is more than valid. I have tried to think of another instrumentalist in jazz who has anything approaching Tatum's sheer technical mastery of his chosen instrument and in my opinion there is noone.

This disc is made up of two sets of solo recording - the second one live. There is no variation in the standard of performance either live or in the studio or in 1933 or 1949. This is solo piano of the very highest order. Arguably this is the best way to listen to Art Tatum - other players tended to be superfluous or intimidated, and often a rhythm section got in the way of Tatum's ever changing ideas.

Every track is of note and it would be difficult to select any highlights. However there are certain selections that are rapidly becoming favourites of mine.

No Tatum performance would be complete without 'Tea For Two' and the version here is very fine. 'Tiger Rag' begins with a slow introduction and then takes off - the tempo is very bright but the articulation is very lucid. There is a passage of outrageous re-harmonisation - one of many examples of a wry sense of humour shown throughout the disc.

Another track which Tatum's sense of fun is Dvorak's Humoresque. The phrasing here brings to mind the type of phrasing used in a 'Tom and Jerry' cartoon with its clipped rhythmic figurations.

The only original composition on this disc is 'Tatum Pole Boogie'. This is Boogie-Woogie playing at its best.The pianist drives the tempo throughout with his customary articulation.

'The Kerry Dance' is a delight - only just over a minute long but a gem all the same.

This disc would be an excellent purchase for the newcomer to Tatum's work- it is very high in content on all of his best aspects including a very fertile imagination. For the Tatum aficionado I can only say that this disc is essential listening.

Dick Stafford

D.S. is a professional reed player and teacher living in Coventry.

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