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Art Tatum - The Standard Transcriptions

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Album Review

This is the earlier, 1991 incarnation of Music & Arts' CD package of Art Tatum's Standard Transcriptions. In 1996 Music & Arts "replaced" it with CD-919, which is the same thing except that four new selections had been added that were technically not possible to include in 1991 due to the 70-minute limitation on the length of a CD. Also, in the later version, Doug Pomeroy was able to go through and add some additional CEDAR-ing that made the overall sound of the set a little less noisy. Unfortunately, unless you know the stock numbers, it is nearly impossible to tell the two sets apart, as both read on the back "61 Solo Piano Pieces From the Standard Sessions." Indeed, there are 61 pieces on CD-673, but there are 65 on CD-919. With all of this confusion, and considering each has gone in and out of print, should you bother? Absolutely! Tatum's Standard Transcriptions are essential in understanding his early period, which is regretfully somewhat under-documented in terms of commercial studio recordings; Tatum's work for Standard more than doubles his studio output for this same period (1935-1943). Of course, after 1943, independent recording firms, such as those led by producers Moses Asch and Norman Granz, would more than make up for this oversight. Also, one could argue that among great jazz artists Art Tatum had the least proclivity for, or need of, forward stylistic development in his work. That said, Tatum, with his jaw-dropping technical facility and seemingly inexhaustible imagination, seldom visited his improvisational flights of fancy more than once or twice, despite the fact that on club dates he played the same basic group of standards night after night. So really any recording of Tatum represents a unique performance, and as the "Standards" were made in a studio environment, but initially not for public sale, their presence on the market is particularly welcome. Either set will provide what the doctor ordered if you are an Art Tatum aficionado, but some will want to hold out for Music & Arts CD-919 and those four extras, rather than settle for the older set and do without.


Born: 13 October 1909 in Toledo, OH

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s

Art Tatum was among the most extraordinary of all jazz musicians, a pianist with wondrous technique who could not only play ridiculously rapid lines with both hands (his 1933 solo version of "Tiger Rag" sounds as if there were three pianists jamming together) but was harmonically 30 years ahead of his time; all pianists have to deal to a certain extent with Tatum's innovations in order to be taken seriously. Able to play stride, swing, and boogie-woogie with speed and complexity that could only previously...
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