Art Tatum –- Piano Grand Master

Art Tatum, as you may know, was one of the early greats of jazz piano. Although practically blind, he developed a technique so extraordinary that when first he heard him Oscar Peterson gave up playing for weeks, convinced he could never match him (which, in terms of pure technical ability, he probably didn’t, although he got closer than anyone else).

There’’s no disputing on listening to this 4 CD box set that Tatum was a phenomenon, almost a freak of nature for being so far ahead of his time. The problem (and it is one, no matter how much I wish it were’n’t) is just that – he was so far ahead of his time that the recordings of his music are primitive, using what technology was available in the 30s, 40s and 50s. It makes listening to his astonishing playing less of a pleasure than it might be. There’s also that curious phenomenon, when listening to the true pioneers of music, of feeling like you’’ve heard it before –- because you’’ve heard so many later performers who were inspired by them.

Nevertheless, judge for yourself -– there’s plenty of grainy old Tatum out there on YouTube. Prepare to be amazed.

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