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Centennial Celebration: Art Tatum

Art Tatum

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Album Review

The centennial of Ben Webster's birth occurred in 2009 and producer Nick Phillips mined the vaults of various Concord-owned labels, including Pablo, Riverside, Contemporary, and Prestige/Swingville, to create this compilation featuring the late tenor saxophonist. One of the three giants of his instrument during the 1930s and 1940s (along with Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young), Webster was still very much at the top of his game when these sessions were recorded. When he took part in the series of small-group dates with Art Tatum, he refused to be intimidated by the pianist's intricate flourishes, simply delivering majestic solos in "My One and Only Love," "All the Things You Are," and "Have You Met Miss Jones." He's very comfortable with old friends Benny Carter and Barney Bigard in an easygoing setting of Carter's "Lula." The two live tracks, "Caravan" and "Georgia on My Mind" taken from At the Renaissance, also find Webster in an inspired mood, supported by a rhythm section including pianist Jimmy Rowles and guitarist Jim Hall. But the most overlooked material is from his meeting with Austrian pianist Joe Zawinul, who was also Webster's roommate at the time, which is highlighted by the richly textured "Travelin' Light." Most Ben Webster fans likely already own all of the individual albums from which this was assembled, but for everyone else, this is an excellent introduction to the tenor saxophonist.

Biography

Born: October 13, 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...
Full Bio