Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 26

Thread: Art Tatum: great jazz pianist or greatest jazz pianist?

  1. #1
    Senior Member regressivetransphobe's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    947
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Art Tatum: great jazz pianist or greatest jazz pianist?

    Rachmaninov said that he understood what Tatum played, but was unable to do the same. And also 'If this man ever decides to play serious music we're all in trouble.'

    ...

    Horowitz sat himself at the piano and began to pay "Tea for Two" for his Jazz counterpart. Thunder and lightening, hail and brimstone, Horowitz finished the piece and looks up immediately at Tatum with an eager set of eyes.
    "What do you think?" asks the Russian.
    "Very good. I enjoyed it." comes the answer. Pause. Tatum continues: "Would you like to hear my version of 'Tea for Two'?"
    "Certainly I would. Go ahead."
    Tatum gets up and launches into the piece that has always been one of his specialties. Horowitz' mouth drops when he hears what he hears and as soon as the Jazzman finishes:
    "My God! That was fantastic! Where did you get that transcription? You must give it to me!"
    "Transcription?" answers Tatum, "That was no transcription. I was just improvising!"
    People who hide are afraid!

  2. Likes Blancrocher, Varick liked this post
  3. #2
    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    3,142
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I have to say that I don't consider him a great artist, at least for what I've heard. Sure, he had that incredible technique (but I don't see many talking of the technique of Bernard Peiffer or Umberto Cesari) and in the thirties he was also the most harmonically advanced jazz pianist at the time (before people like Tristano or Monk) and I really like that aspect of his playing. But basically he was a shredder of the piano. No melody, pauses, no development of ideas, just those furious runs all over the keyboard, and when he played in bands he didn't play with them, he dominated the band.
    Last edited by norman bates; Apr-25-2014 at 01:27.

  4. Likes Morimur, Alypius liked this post
  5. #3
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Syracuse, NY USA
    Posts
    9,783
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I never could get into Art Tatum. But I was never an avid listener of those older jazz styles. Fats Waller is more fun anyway. And Duke Ellington had a beautiful economical style that was instantly recognizable and soulful. Not a big fan of piano shredders. I'd rather listen to Monk, Bill Evans, Kenny Barron, or Herbie Hancock.
    Last edited by starthrower; Apr-25-2014 at 03:57.

  6. Likes eugeneonagain liked this post
  7. #4
    Senior Member science's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    The Eastern and Northern
    Posts
    15,472
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    51

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by norman bates View Post
    I have to say that I don't consider him a great artist, at least for what I've heard. Sure, he had that incredible technique (but I don't see many talking of the technique of Bernard Peiffer or Umberto Cesari) and in the thirties he was also the most harmonically advanced jazz pianist at the time (before people like Tristano or Monk) and I really like that aspect of his playing. But basically he was a shredder of the piano. No melody, pauses, no development of ideas, just those furious runs all over the keyboard, and when he played in bands he didn't play with them, he dominated the band.
    I don't know about his work with bands, but "no melody, no pauses" doesn't sound like Art Tatum to me. I hear rag melodies played and then developed (or at the very least distorted) in various ways, and his rhythms astound me.
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

  8. Likes ShropshireMoose, Heliogabo liked this post
  9. #5
    Senior Member JohnD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    201
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    "No melody" is not an accurate description of Art Tatum's style of playing, in my opinion. His later recordings may rely a bit too heavily on technique, but he's definitely among the piano greats. What was Fats Waller's comment when Tatum showed up at one of his shows? Something like "I play piano, but God is in the house tonight."

  10. #6
    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    3,142
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by science View Post
    I don't know about his work with bands, but "no melody, no pauses" doesn't sound like Art Tatum to me. I hear rag melodies played and then developed (or at the very least distorted) in various ways, and his rhythms astound me.
    You and JohnD are both right, probably "no pauses" it's not a good expression. What I mean is that in his playing there's no... I don't know how to call it, in italian I'd say "respiro", that was the thing Miles Davis admired in Ahmad Jamal. And also "no melody" I mean that usually his improvisations seems to me just embellishments of the melody. At least considering what I've heard.

  11. Likes science liked this post
  12. #7
    Senior Member Piwikiwi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Posts
    927
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by norman bates View Post
    You and JohnD are both right, probably "no pauses" it's not a good expression. What I mean is that in his playing there's no... I don't know how to call it, in italian I'd say "respiro", that was the thing Miles Davis admired in Ahmad Jamal. And also "no melody" I mean that usually his improvisations seems to me just embellishments of the melody. At least considering what I've heard.
    Two things, I have a hard time taking Ahmad Jamal's playing seriously, especially the albums that influenced Miles Davis, it's basically a cocktail trio. You are right about the Art Tatum his improvisations though but that is not really the point of his music.

    Who needs a piano player anyway?


    I should not forget the greatest saxophone player of all time.
    Last edited by Piwikiwi; Apr-25-2014 at 14:36.

  13. #8
    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    3,142
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Piwikiwi View Post
    Two things, I have a hard time taking Ahmad Jamal's playing seriously, especially the albums that influenced Miles Davis, it's basically a cocktail trio.
    He's not one of my favorite pianists (even if I like him more than Tatum, and by the way "cocktail trio" sounds a bit reductive), but anyway the use of space it's something that you can find not just in Jamal or Monk, but also in virtuosos like Denny Zeitlin or Bill Evans, Bud Powell and tons of other. They can play fast but that means that they could not stop, or play slower, or very slow. Tatum gives me the impression that he didn't know how to do it, he play fast everything, like he was a Malmsteen of the piano, just showing his chops. Obviously he was a much more talented musician than the swedish guitarist but that's why I can listen Tatum only in small doses.

  14. #9
    Senior Member science's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    The Eastern and Northern
    Posts
    15,472
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    51

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by norman bates View Post
    You and JohnD are both right, probably "no pauses" it's not a good expression. What I mean is that in his playing there's no... I don't know how to call it, in italian I'd say "respiro", that was the thing Miles Davis admired in Ahmad Jamal. And also "no melody" I mean that usually his improvisations seems to me just embellishments of the melody. At least considering what I've heard.
    Maybe you're on to something, but I don't think it's something that is going to bother me in the near future. Tatum's got enough good stuff for me in his music that if he doesn't have some other good stuff I'll still enjoy it.
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

  15. Likes hpowders, Sonata liked this post
  16. #10
    Senior Member cwarchc's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Manchester UK
    Posts
    1,234
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I have to admit it doesn't float my boat either
    I much prefer a touch of Monk or Peterson
    “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

  17. #11
    Senior Member Belowpar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    London
    Posts
    977
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Add me to the doubters.


    "Too many notes"

    (I probably to dim to get him, never mind there's plenty else to occupy me)

  18. #12
    Senior Member Victor Redseal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Posts
    962
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    3

    Default

    The mistake that everybody seems to be making is assuming that Tatum was a jazz player. He was not. He played jazz with no more seriousness than he played classical. Almost nothing of Tatum's style or technique has found its way into jazz even though his style incorporates literally everything that can be found in both the black American and European styles. Picture Tatum's music as a towering skyscraper with only the ground floor occupied. The vast majority of his musical inventory is unexplored, unused. I far prefer his solo stuff to his band stuff because he soars when he's by himself but the trouble is that he is truly by himself. When he's playing with a band, you can hear how restricted he is because jazz can't hold him, can't tame him, can't ultimately use him.

    Some of the stuff he does in this clip has never been done by any other pianist in the history of the instrument.



    He is no more decipherable to the jazzmen than he is to the classical pianists.
    "God," asked Adam, "why did you make Eve so beautiful?"
    And He replied, "So that you could love her."
    "But God," asked Adam, "why did you make her so stupid?"
    And He replied, "So that she could love you."

  19. Likes Sonata, Heliogabo, Barbebleu liked this post
  20. #13
    Senior Member Albert7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Salted Lakers City, UT
    Posts
    7,908
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    43

    Default

    Art Tatum was a genius but not my favorite pianist in jazz for all time.

    For me, that award goes to Bill Evans and Cecil Taylor but not both simultaneously .

    Bill Evans was a sheer master of the fine instrument... composing some of the greatest jazz standards ever.
    "if a horse could sing in a monotone, the horse would sound like Carly Simon, only a horse wouldn't rhyme 'yacht', 'apricot', and 'gavotte'. Is that some kind of joke?"
    --Robert Christgau
    "there's a fine line between having an open mind and having your whole brain fall out"
    --Anonymous

    アルバート セブン

  21. Likes Heliogabo liked this post
  22. #14
    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    3,142
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Victor Redseal View Post
    The mistake that everybody seems to be making is assuming that Tatum was a jazz player. He was not. He played jazz with no more seriousness than he played classical. Almost nothing of Tatum's style or technique has found its way into jazz even though his style incorporates literally everything that can be found in both the black American and European styles. Picture Tatum's music as a towering skyscraper with only the ground floor occupied. The vast majority of his musical inventory is unexplored, unused.
    I'm wondering what it's that you consider unexplored or unused. To me he was without a doubt a jazz pianist, and the most interesting part of his pianism was his harmonic knowledge, that really was ahead of its time. But even in his early day I can think of Clarence Profit or Cy Walter who had a similar language (they were friends and they often played together), and talking of harmonically advanced stuff it could be mentioned also In a mist composed by Bix Beiderbecke.

  23. #15
    Senior Member joen_cph's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Cph, Denmark
    Posts
    5,057
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default

    Warning - layman observations, but:

    I´ve got one of those very cheap 10 CD boxes & though I like him & enjoy hearing him now and then, the "too many notes"-remark above also seems relevant from time to time for me; however, the ensemble recordings and their interplay make a better environment for his often restless style (if one could characterize it as that), I think. Also, one could wish for longer, more meditative pieces, like it was the case with Bill Evans, for example, though the recording habits of the day set a limit.

  24. Likes Sonata liked this post
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Best pianist for each great composer?
    By nathanb in forum Classical Music Discussion
    Replies: 35
    Last Post: May-01-2019, 10:58
  2. The great Oscar Peterson (jazz, piano)
    By aleazk in forum Non-Classical Music
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: Aug-21-2015, 23:03
  3. The Greatest Pianist of all Time?
    By michael walsh in forum Musicians
    Replies: 215
    Last Post: May-30-2013, 16:38
  4. Replies: 2
    Last Post: Jul-10-2012, 23:03
  5. Greatest jazz saxaphone players
    By shsherm in forum Non-Classical Music
    Replies: 25
    Last Post: Jun-23-2009, 20:39

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •