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Art Tatum: God Is in the House

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This performance was caught live by Jerry Newman on his “portable disc recording equipment,” and ears accustomed to the standards on today’s studio recording will have much adjusting to do. They will, however, quickly be repaid by the exceptional music made in informal circumstances. Jam sessions, once so common, were remembered for moments of glory and their longueurs quickly forgotton. One problem was the frequent presence of drags on the stand, because democracy generally ruled and a kind of sportsmanship commended that feelings not be hurt.

Tatum’s piannying comes across strongly, not least on two blues, where his touch has Hines-like strength. He sings amusingly on both and something of a party atmosphere prevails. The venues-the Gee-Haw Stables and Clark Monroe’s Uptown House-brought out a humorous, unbottoned quality in the pianist, who remains unpredictable, but not consciously trying to impress or knock out listeners as he often did. This disc ends up with an example of another vastly underrated trumpeter’s work., Frank Newton’s.

In short, a valuable document on the state of jazz immediately before the bebop tumbrels rolled.