Pianists Inspire a New Generation: Art Tatum The Jazz Piano Wizard

Written By Sonny Akbar Sembada

Hi, my name is Sonny Akbar Sembada and I welcome you to my blog, The Uncle Jazz. The main topic of my blog is everything related to jazz music.. 

Pianists inspire a new generation – Let’s delve into the life and magic of Art Tatum, the jazz piano whiz born on October 13, 1909, in Toledo, Ohio.

Despite only having sight in one eye and none in the other, this guy is hailed as one of the all-time jazz piano greats.

Art Tatum: Pianists Inspire a New Generation

Pianists inspire a new generation. Picture young Art growing up in a musical household. He got a bit of formal training at the Toledo School of Music, but most of his musical mojo came from teaching himself. Even though his music teachers wanted him to go all classical, Tatum was vibing more with Fats Waller. That’s where the real musical party was at!

Local Prodigy Alert

Fast forward to 18, and Art is rocking local radio stations, soon landing his own show. Then, in 1932, singer Adelaide Hall spots him and whisks him off to the Big Apple. By ’33, he’s laying down tracks, including the legendary “Tiger Rag.” This one’s got insane tempos, lightning hands, and booming bass, making every piano player out there do a double-take.

Read also: Jazz Pianist and Musical Heritage: Getting to Know Bill Charlap

NYC and the Piano Throwdowns

New York becomes Tatum’s playground, where he’s throwing down in “cutting contests” with top pianists. Picture this: he’s schooling legends like Fats Waller and James P. Johnson. Then he’s gigging from Cleveland to Chicago, New York to Los Angeles, and even hopping across the pond to England in ’38. Tatum is now the heavyweight champ of jazz. Teaming up with Slam Stewart and Tiny Grimes in the early ’40s, he tours North America like a musical hurricane.

Recognition and Jam Sessions

Come 1953, super-producer Norman Granz gives Tatum the nod, and boom, he’s recording like there’s no tomorrow. Solo gigs, collabs with Benny Carter, Buddy DeFranco, Roy Eldridge, Lionel Hampton, Ben Webster, Harry Sweets Edison – you name it. Tatum’s piano game is on fire.

The Tatum Groove

Pianists inspire a new generation. Art Tatum’s early vibe is all about that Fats Waller stride, but he flips it into a unique piano groove. Left-hand patterns are striding, but Tatum’s all about diving into complex harmonies and offbeat chords.

Youtube video by eccentricXXX

Crazy Skills

Tatum’s party tricks include dropping entirely new chord sequences while winging it. Picture one chord per beat – he’s just flexing. And then there’s his habit of throwing in bits from other melodies, setting the stage for future jazz cats.

Legacy and Cool Vibes

Pianists inspire a new generation Art Tatum’s legacy is etched in jazz gold. He’s the secret sauce inspiring cats like Bud Powell, Herbie Hancock, and even non-piano legends like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. Bebop owes him big time.

Shoutouts from the Crew

Check this out – Oscar Peterson thinks he’s hearing two pianos when Tatum’s on. He’s swearing Tatum’s the GOAT. And even classical heavyweight Vladimir Horowitz? Legend has it, he teared up watching Tatum play. He once said classical pianists dodged a bullet because Tatum stuck to jazz. Back in ’38, Fats Waller introduces him at a gig, saying, “I’m just tickling the ivories, but tonight, God’s at the keys.” Talk about a musical deity!

Article Pianists Inspire a New Generation: Art Tatum The Jazz Piano Wizard interesting? share it with your friends.

Leave a Comment

The Uncle Jazz is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission.