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20th Century Piano Genius [2 CD]

4.7 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 30, 1996
$44.01 $2.97

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

20TH CENTURY PIANO GENIUS

Amazon.com

For Art Tatum, the piano was a veritable playground, a forum for endless invention. His supreme command of the instrument and his unparalleled sense of timing and touch allowed him to seemingly accomplish whatever he wished. Songs were puzzles to be dismantled and reassembled; melody, harmony, and rhythm were merely variables in the never-ending creation process. This two-CD set collects all of the recordings Tatum made at two private parties hosted by Warner Bros. musical director Ray Heindorf; the bulk of the material comes from July 1955, the remainder is from April 1950. All of the trademark Tatum elements are here: the grand melodic flourishes, the harmonic magic tricks, the flirtations with various tempos and musical styles. But what also emerges is Tatum's effervescence, his joy, and his humor. He seems to celebrate and mock these timeless melodies all at once. Is that "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" hiding in "Body and Soul"? The results are always compelling and almost always thrilling to hear. You can hear his friends gasp and chuckle along with music, and you will too. --Marc Greilsamer
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 30, 1996)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Polygram Records / Verve
  • ASIN: B00000473S
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,487 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By JEAN-MARIE JUIF on March 12, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Outstanding.Amazing.Stupendous.Miraculous.Extraordinary.Majestuous.Imperial.This is Art Tatum (1910-1956) at his highest level.THis is simply piano playing at its highest level,wether it is jazz,classical,or any kind of music.NOBODY never reached,or just approached Tatum's incredible technique.Born blind,Tatum arrived in NYC in 1933 with Adelaide Hall,an ex-Ellington singer and quickly became the King.It is said that Fats Waller,playing one night in a club,and seeing Tatum in the hall,said "I'm playing here but God is in the house tonight";masters like Toscanini,Rubinstein and Horowitz used to listen to him and were fascinated by his talents.Tatum could play improbable chords progressions at the highest speed,and the swing was always here.He was one of the greatest geniuses in the history of music,and this record may be the most beautiful introduction to his world.
Most of the tunes were recorded July3,1955 in Beverly Hills,at Ray Heindorf's home,who was Musical Director for Warner Bros.EVERY tune is a masterpiece.You can't believe your ears when you listen to these treasuries."Sweet Lorraine",for example,is one of the most magnificent piece of music ever recorded.Or "begin the beguine",played at an infernal tempo;or George Gershwin's "someone to watch over me".Or "you took advantage of me",in which shades of Teddy Wilson appear.By the way,Tatum once said that he would have loved to BE ABLE to play like Wilson.The great Teddy never received a better hommage."yesterdays" is another gem,and Bud Powell could have played the ad-lib introduction;then,every classical pianist must have been terrified by what's coming.The somptuous "I'll never be the same" makes me think of the masterpiece Billie Holiday and Lester Young made of this tune,some 17 years earlier.
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Format: Audio CD
There is simply nothing else like this 2 CD set of Art Tatum. Even other Tatum discs dont compare to the tracks he laid down on these two evenings, one of them in 1950 and one in 1955.
In my opinion the sound quality here is better than any other Tatum CD. That is besides the point though. The fact is that on these two CDs you will here the great genius Tatum playing with more FEELING than ever before or after. That is all there is to it.
We are lucky to have 2 hours and 17 minutes of beautiful solos from Artur T! He plays many of the great standards. Tatum offers two version of each of the following songs: Love For Sale, Sweet Lorraine, Yesterdays, Body and Soul, Someone To Watch Over Me. Hearing the differences in those versions gives us a greater understanding of Tatum's genius...that is- how much can be varied within a given song.
Every song is a gem- but my absolute favorites include....wait, they are all so good, i could make a case for any one of them. One track, however, does stick in my mind unlike any other. It is Mr. Freddie Blues. Tatum plays half-jokingly, becuase he tells his friends that they like the "simple" stuff. So Tatum plays a blues in the key of C with no fancy runs at all. The result is spectacular, and you must hear it.
There is also a virtuoso fast performance of Begin the Beguine, amazing harmonies in Someone To Watch Over Me, constant key changes in Honeysuckle Rose, and the performance of After You've Gone which is both sad and humorous. And there are the two versions of Love For Sale that seem impossible to execute at that speed, but I am thankful that Tatum could execute his ideas. His ideas are endless and brilliant.
I must mention again that the FEELING on this album is beyond any other Tatum disc.
As far as solo piano goes, this ranks right up at the top with Glenn Gould's recording of the Goldberg Variations and Arthur Rubinstein's recording of Chopin Ballades.
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By A Customer on August 1, 2002
Format: Audio CD
This two-CD set is a great introduction to the greatest pianist who ever lived. Personal favorites on these CDs are Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams, Body and Soul, I Cover the Waterfront, Some Other Spring, Moon Song, Don't Blame Me. In my opinion, his versions of Just Like a Butterfly (That's Caught in the Rain) and Without a Song are better on the Pablo Solo Masterpieces. Tatum was a genius, not only because of his incredible technique, but also his taste and his sense of harmony and rhythm. His playing is complex and deep and can only be appreciated by close and repeated listenings. I've been listening to AT for more than 20 years, and this two-CD set ranks at the top of my list.
Anyone who doubts that Tatum's genius extended beyond technique and into harmony should listen to the response from one of Ray Heindorf's guests after Tatum finishes playing "Some Other Spring." Tatum didn't play the song fast or include any technical fireworks, but the song was played with such emotion that the guest said, "Geez, Art. Jesus."
Tatum was phenomenal and should have been recorded much more often.
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Format: Audio CD
Fantastic solo piano recordings of Art Tatum at home with a few very lucky guests listening along. A wonderfully intimate recording, you can hear the background sounds of glass clinking, guests chatting between tunes (and occasionally during tunes), and Art's numerous big rings clicking on the piano keys. The playing is all vintage Tatum: breathtaking miniature epic explorations of standards that amaze and delight at every turn. The program is similar in style and song selection to the massive boxed set of studio recordings "The Complete Pablo Solo Masterpieces," yet I find myself listening to this release more often because it sets such a wonderful mood: transporting me to Art Tatum's living room on a relaxed early '50s afternoon, sharing some Pabst Blue Ribbon and being astounded by the genius at the piano... why don't you stop by, too?
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