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Art Tatum: Tatum Art

Art Tatum had the ability to scare people, especially other pianists. The first time a young Oscar Peterson was played an Art Tatum record, he refused to play piano for months, feeling he could never measure up to Tatum’s level. When Hank Jones initially heard Tatum’s 1933 recording of “Tiger Rag,” he asked who the three pianists were.

The 10-CD set Tatum Art (Storyville) mostly contains material that was previously unreleased until recently. The first nine CDs have been released individually by Storyville during the past couple of years, so this box is recommended to listeners who have not already acquired those discs. Dating from 1934-46, the material was mostly recorded privately, featuring Tatum in concerts, at clubs, on the radio and at parties. All of the music is listenable though not always technically up to the level of studio recordings. In addition to the many dazzling unaccompanied solos and numbers with Tatum’s trios, there are cameo appearances from Les Paul, Tal Farlow, Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden and Coleman Hawkins. The 10 CDs are joined by a DVD that features Tatum on clips from the March of Time newsreels, The Fabulous Dorseys and a remarkable version of “Yesterdays” from The Spike Jones Show in 1954.

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