Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Art Tatum: Memories Of You

Whenever the subject of the roots of modern jazz piano is raised, disputation among informed theorists ceases upon the mention of Earl Hines, whose playing in 1928 set the ball in motion. However, after quantifying Hines’ many contributions to the rapidly growing art form, both in solo and ensemble contexts, one must next confront the phenomenon of Art Tatum, a stunning soloist who emerged on record seemingly overnight in 1933, but who had actually attracted serious attention as early as 1926 or 1927, when he was but 17 or 18 years old. For it was then, in his native Toledo, that he was first heard by Coleman Hawkins, Rex Stewart and other members of the traveling Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. Though he was a featured staff pianist on local and then network radio in the late 1920s, and from 1933 on continued to make solo recordings, Tatum did not become a big name until the mid-’40s, when, with Tiny Grimes and Slam Stewart, he formed one of the first piano/guitar/bass trios, a combo that, however great its popularity, actually served as an impediment to the full exercise of his genius. It is commonly agreed that Tatum thrived as a soloist, and it is no condemnation to say that his ever fertile imagination was occasionally restrained by the presence of others. However, on the recordings gathered here, we are only concerned with his excellences, not his shortcomings.

Memories Of You is a three-disc boxed set comprising three previously issued CDs-The V-Discs (BL 760114), Standards (BL 760143), and Tea For Two (BL 760192)-and, although the music is exemplary throughout, caution must be noted regarding the sound quality of the transfers. For reasons unexplained, Black Lion apparently did not avail itself of contemporary digital remastering techniques, so this version of the admittedly rare material still retains the stuffy sound and scratchy surfaces of the initial releases. Considering the quality of the music involved, there is no justification for the treatment it has received on this, the company’s second chance at improvement.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published