I’ve been listening to a lot of Art Tatum recently, particularly his solo recordings. There’s something very captivating about the way he plays. He often sounds like he’s playing a piano that’s falling down a long set of stairs.
Tatum was a very intimidating player. So much so that when he’d enter a room, other musicians would often say “God is in the house.”
Virtuosity can be an impediment to music. Having a complete, effortless command of your instrument can lead to showmanship that isn’t in service of the song. Tatum rarely falls into that trap, in my opinion. Even when he’s at his flashiest, the song comes through.
Here are a few Tatum gems. Do you have a favorite Art Tatum performance? Let us know in the comments.
— Jason Crane