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Rainey vs. Reamy


A contributor who claims to be a cousin of Tatum's classical piano instructor tried to edit the article to change the name of the instructor from Rainey to Reamy, but without any citation. (The contributor also claimed that Reamy played boogie-woogie in Toledo nightclubs, which inspired Tatum's jazz.) A Google search reveals a 1940 U.S. Census entry for an "Overton J. Reamy", age 59, living in Toledo, Ohio. https://www.archives.com/1940-census/overton-reamy-oh-98178486, which could lend creedence to the Reamy spelling and account. A Google search for "Overton G. Rainey" turns up a lot of results, but can they all have originated from the "Rainey" spelling in Lester's bio? (talk) 18:35, 18 March 2022 (UTC)kolef98.244.137.86 (talk) 18:35, 18 March 2022 (UTC)[reply]

We need reliable sources (WP:RS). Do any discuss this and prefer 'Reamy'? Lester (p37) states that Rainey was "black" and the census states that Reamy was "white", so something's wrong. The census page has something like "music teacher" for his occupation, so it's possible, but we need RS. EddieHugh (talk) 18:55, 18 March 2022 (UTC)[reply]
This "Find a Grave" webpage identifies "Overton James 'Ovie' Reamy" (1881 - 1957) as a blind musician and entertainer in Toledo, and contains a photo of him playing piano, and also contains part of an obituary which identifies him as Art Tatum's piano teacher: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/122505050/overton-james-reamy
Also, "Overton J Reamy" is listed as being on the Board of Trustees for the Perkins School for the Blind or some related institution between 1920 and 1927: https://archive.org/stream/perkinsschoolfo202704perk/perkinsschoolfo202704perk_djvu.txt
In addition, the State of Ohio Annual Reports for 1909 lists "Overton J. Reamy" as a Toledo musician having graduated from the Ohio State School for the Blind in 1902: https://books.google.com/books?id=uoowAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA288&lpg=PA288&dq=%22Overton+J.+Reamy%22&source=bl&ots=-UKLdC4rgp&sig=ACfU3U1ihHnPUZtqbrat41hRUfEbwk0ktA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi_ouu__-P2AhXPVzABHaydAgsQ6AF6BAgGEAM#v=onepage&q=%22Overton%20J.%20Reamy%22&f=false
I believe these sources are sufficient to drop of footnote in the article regarding the spelling of his name. (talk) 15:03, 26 March 2022 (UTC)kolef98.244.137.86 (talk) 15:03, 26 March 2022 (UTC)[reply]
Find a Grave isn't a reliable source. See Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Perennial sources. We're close to having evidence to justify having a footnote, but for now we have what's too close to WP:SYNTH and/or the more general WP:OR. EddieHugh (talk) 20:32, 1 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Downbeat Magazine


The main article states that Tatum won the Downbeat Magazine Critics' Poll for three years in a row from 1954, and cites at footnote 118 to Lester's book. However, the Wikipedia article on Downbeat Magazine states that the Critics' Poll did not commence until 1961. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DownBeat — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:07, 14 June 2022 (UTC)[reply]

The Wikipedia article is about the Hall of Fame votes. The Tatum article states "Tatum was inducted into the DownBeat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1964". That's different from the poll that he topped three years in a row ("for pianists"): DownBeat in 2021 referred to that year's poll being the sixty-ninth, putting the first in 1953. EddieHugh (talk) 18:07, 15 June 2022 (UTC)[reply]
Good catch. (talk) 14:19, 17 June 2022 (UTC)kolef98.244.137.86 (talk) 14:19, 17 June 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Vision Should be in Lead


I think his issues seeing should be in the lead. I would add it but better someone who can integrate it properly. I think it is way more notable than his excessive drinking. Hausa warrior (talk) 07:23, 25 January 2023 (UTC)[reply]

I don't think so. His drinking was part of his chosen (and culturally influenced) lifestyle; his near-blindness was something he was largely born with. Thankfully, the world is moving on from highlighting what people can't do, and instead focusing on what they can do and choose to do. EddieHugh (talk) 20:09, 26 January 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I agree with Hausa warrior that Tatum's vision impairment should be in the lede. Compare, for example, the wiki lede on Michel Petrucciani: "Michel Petrucciani (French pronunciation: ​[miʃɛl petʁutʃani]; Italian: [petrutˈtʃaːni]; 28 December 1962 – 6 January 1999) was a French jazz pianist. From birth he had osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disease that causes brittle bones and, in his case, short stature. He became one of the most accomplished jazz pianists of his generation despite his health condition and relatively short life."
See also wiki article on Andrea Boccelli:
"Andrea Bocelli OMRI OMDSM (Italian: [anˈdrɛːa boˈtʃɛlli]; born 22 September 1958) is an Italian tenor. He was born visually impaired, with congenital glaucoma, and at the age of 12, Bocelli became completely blind, following a brain hemorrhage resulting from a football accident. After performing evenings in piano bars and competing in local singing contests, Bocelli signed his first recording contract with the Sugar Music label. He rose to fame in 1994, winning the newcomer’s section of the 44th Sanremo Music Festival performing "Il mare calmo della sera"."
Tatum's visual impairment should be recognized from the start because he was unable to read music or see the keyboard like other piano players, which made his "musicality" even more remarkable. In addition, the article is not about Tatum's musicality; it's about Art Tatum. (talk) 13:07, 30 June 2023 (UTC)kolef98.244.137.86 (talk) 13:07, 30 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
yes (talk) 13:08, 30 June 2023 (UTC)kolef98.244.137.86 (talk) 13:08, 30 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I still haven't made up my mind in one way or another and am, needless to say, willing to accept the consensus reached here. That said, User talk:EddieHugh makes an excellent point about "the world is moving on from highlighting what people can't do, and instead focusing on what they can do and choose to do". So, was Tatum an incredible musician because he was partially sighted? In other words, did his limited vision make him a better musician? Or was he a good musician who just happened to be partially sighted...? We'll obviously never know... But we can surmise.
The main reference used for this article (Lester 1994) actually points out that Tatum "disliked having attention drawn to his blindness...".
As for comparing the introduction to those of other articles on other musicians with disabilities (medical model of disability) or on other disabled musicians (social model of disability), that's not how these discussions should be focused. The inclusion or not of his impaired vision in the introduction should be based on how relevant it is in this specific case. Obviously it should be mentioned in article at some stage, which of course it is, but not necessarily right up there at the beginning.
On the other hand, to make broad, sweeping statements about how "he was unable to read music or see the keyboard like other piano players..." is pure conjecture. While we often read that he was a blind musician, which merely highlights the limited knowledge that any given writer/journalist/biographer has regarding blindness and visual impairment, we know he studied music at school using Braille, so we can safely assume he was well aware of, at least, the rudiments of music theory. On the other hand, pianists don't actually need to see the keyboard. Which might explain why there are so many notable blind pianists... totally blind musicians, not partially sighted. While we're surmising, the "fact" that many (most?) of them play jazz and blues, for example, may merely respond these genres [possibly] relying more on the feel for the music than on the sight reading required of classical music... --Technopat (talk) 14:43, 30 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Copying my comment from the GA review two years ago: "Tatum wasn't famous for being blind. He was famous for being a pianist. He also happened to be blind. I view highlighting such things as implying that someone was successful in a chosen pursuit despite not having something that most others take for granted. It's a bit patronising and can be a form of discrimination." EddieHugh (talk) 17:29, 30 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
There's no problem at Stevie Wonder? Or at Ray Charles? What's different here? Thanks. (talk) 21:53, 30 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Ask there. Lennie Tristano, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, George Shearing, Marcus Roberts, etc, etc, etc don't mention it in the lead. As Technopat points out, 'another article does it differently' isn't a great argument. EddieHugh (talk) 17:10, 1 July 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I don't know why its so important to include in the lead. Tatum wasn't notable for being blind. He wasn't even notable for being a "blind pianist". He was notable for being a pianist... that's it? Anyways, there is a long tradition of blind keyboard players in classical music and jazz, so this kind of thing has existed for a while. I worry that too much emphasis on his blindness creates the pseudo-historical that he overcame some great illness and triumphed into musical excellence (see this article for instance). Aza24 (talk) 17:14, 2 July 2023 (UTC)[reply]
What some are saying is that Tatum's playing would be just as accomplished and he would be just as acclaimed, even if his eyesight had been normal. That may or may not be true, but the facts are that he was mostly blind and was a superlative musician. To say that he was not famous for being blind is speculative. Did anyone take a survey to determine that? The notion that a person's disability should not be highlighted because we are becoming more enlightened is a noble sentiment. Yes, blind people don't want to be defined by their disability, nor do they want to be discriminated against for it. But not recognizing it, or saying "oh, there have been plenty of blind pianists", could be seen as minimizing or downplaying a serious disability. Can a sighted person determine whether being blind is a significant impediment? Anyway, in view of the divergent opinions, and with apologies to Art, I will let it rest. (talk) 22:38, 8 July 2023 (UTC)kolef98.244.137.86 (talk) 22:38, 8 July 2023 (UTC)[reply]



The following tidbits were deleted from the article because of poor sourcing or perceptions of "cheerleading" or duplication or unencyclopedic quality, but are published here in Talk for posterity and the curious:

Critic Scott Yanow wrote, "Tatum's quick reflexes and boundless imagination kept his improvisations filled with fresh (and sometimes futuristic) ideas that put him way ahead of his contemporaries ... Art Tatum's recordings still have the ability to scare modern pianists."

Count Basie called him the eighth wonder of the world. Dave Brubeck observed, "I don't think there's any more chance of another Tatum turning up than another Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart." From the liner notes to Capitol CDP 7 92866 2. Dizzy Gillespie said, "First you speak of Art Tatum, then take a long deep breath, and you speak of the other pianists." Lester,Too Marvelous for Words.

"Jazz historian and commentator Ira Gitler declared that Tatum's "left hand was the equal of his right."[1] When Bud Powell was opening for Tatum at Birdland around 1950, the end of an era when musicians engaged in overt competition and so-called cutting sessions,[2] Powell reportedly said to Tatum, "Man, I'm going to really show you about tempo and playing fast. Anytime you're ready." Tatum laughed and replied, "Look, you come in here tomorrow, and anything you do with your right hand, I'll do with my left." Powell never took up the challenge.[3]"

"Charlie Parker (who helped develop bebop) was highly influenced by Tatum. When newly arrived in New York, Parker briefly worked as a dishwasher in a Manhattan restaurant where Tatum was performing and often listened to the pianist. Parker once said, "I wish I could play like Tatum's right hand!"[4]"

"When Oscar Peterson was still a boy, his father played him a recording of Tatum performing "Tiger Rag". Once the young Peterson was finally persuaded that it was performed by a single person, he was so intimidated that he did not touch the piano for weeks.[5] Peterson also stated that, "If you speak of pianists, the most complete pianist that we have known and possibly will know, from what I've heard to date, is Art Tatum."[6] "Musically speaking, he was and is my musical God, and I feel honored to remain one of his humbly devoted disciples."[7]"

"Here's something new..." pianist Hank Jones remembers thinking when he first heard Art Tatum on radio in 1935, "they have devised this trick to make people believe that one man is playing the piano, when I know at least three people are playing."[8]"

"The pianist Teddy Wilson observed, "Maybe this will explain Art Tatum. If you put a piano in a room, just a bare piano. Then you get all the finest jazz pianists in the world and let them play in the presence of Art Tatum. Then let Art Tatum play ... everyone there will sound like an amateur."[9]"

"Jazz critic Leonard Feather called Tatum "the greatest soloist in jazz history, regardless of instrument."[9]"

Fats Waller recalled the showdown: 'That Tatum, he was just too good... He had too much technique. When that man turns on the powerhouse, don't no one play him down. He sounds like a brass band.'When jazz pianist Stanley Cowell was growing up in Toledo, his father prevailed upon Tatum to play piano at the Cowell home. Stanley described the scene as, "Tatum played so brilliantly and so much ... that I thought the piano was gonna break. My mother left the room ... so I said 'What's wrong, Mama?' And she said 'Oh, that man plays too much piano.'"[38] A handful of critics, notably Keith Jarrett, have complained that Tatum played too many notes[39] or was too ornamental or was even 'unjazzlike'. Jazz critic Gary Giddins opined, "That is the essence of Tatum. If you don't like his ornament, you should be listening to someone else. That's where his genius is."[40] If you don't like his ornament, you should be listening to someone else. That's where his genius is.[10]

Generally playing at mezzoforte volume, Tatum employed the entire keyboard from deep bass tones to sonorous mid-register chords to sparkling upper register runs. He used the sustain pedal sparingly so that each note was clearly articulated, chords were cleanly sounded and the melodic line would not be blurred.[11][better source needed]

Using self-taught fingering, including an array of two-fingered runs, he executed the pyrotechnics with meticulous accuracy and timing. Tatum also displayed phenomenal independence of the hands and ambidexterity, which was particularly evident while improvising counterpoint.[citation needed] He also used his thumbs and little fingers to add melody lines while playing something else with his other fingers.[12]

A major event in his meteoric rise to success was his appearance at a cutting contest in 1933 at Morgan's bar in New York City that included Waller, Johnson and Willie "The Lion" Smith. Standard contest pieces included Johnson's "Harlem Strut" and "Carolina Shout", and Waller's "Handful of Keys". Tatum performed his arrangements of "Tea for Two" and "Tiger Rag", in a performance that was considered to be the last word in stride piano. Johnson, reminiscing about Tatum's debut afterward, simply said, "When Tatum played Tea For Two that night I guess that was the first time I ever heard it really played."[24] Tatum's debut was historic because he outplayed the elite competition and heralded the demise of the stride era. He was not challenged further until stride specialist Donald Lambert initiated a half-serious rivalry with him.

Duke Ellington, introduced in a club where Tatum was playing in 1938 by his manager, Irving Mills, stood up to acknowledge the applause but wouldn’t play himself: “I have a clause in my contract,” he joked, “that says I don’t play piano when Art Tatum is in the same room.” — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:15, 1 June 2019 (UTC)

Tatum’s sound was attributable to both his harmonic inventiveness and technical prowess. Many of his harmonic concepts and larger chord voicings (e.g., 13th chords with various flat or sharp intervals) were well ahead of their time in the 1930s (except for their partial emergence in popular songs of the jazz age) and they would be explored by bebop-era musicians a decade later. He worked some of the upper extensions of chords into his lines, a practice which was further developed by Bud Powell and Charlie Parker, which in turn was an influence on the development of ‘modern jazz’. Tatum also pioneered the use of dissonance in jazz piano, as can be heard, for example, on his recording of “Aunt Hagar’s Blues”,[27] which uses extensive dissonance to achieve a bluesy effect. In addition to using major and minor seconds, dissonance was inherent in the complex chords that Tatum frequently used.

His protean style was elaborate, pyrotechnic, dramatic and joyous, combining stride, jazz, swing, boogie-woogie and classical elements, while the musical ideas flowed in rapid-fire fashion. Benny Green wrote in his collected work of essays, The Reluctant Art, that “Tatum has been the only jazz musician to date who has made an attempt to conceive a style based upon all styles, to master the mannerisms of all schools and then synthesize those into something personal.”[29] He was playful, spontaneous and often inserted quotes from other songs into his improvisations.[30]

From the foundation of stride, Tatum made great leaps forward in technique and harmony and he honed a groundbreaking improvisational style that extended the limits of what was possible in jazz piano. His innovations were to greatly influence later jazz pianists, such as Powell, Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson, Billy Taylor, Bill Evans, Tete Montoliu and Chick Corea. One of Tatum’s innovations was his extensive use of the pentatonic scale, which may have inspired later pianists to further mine its possibilities as a device for soloing. Herbie Hancock described Tatum’s unique tone as “majestic” and devoted some time to unlocking this sound and to noting Tatum’s harmonic arsenal.[34] Yet much of Tatum’s keyboard vocabulary remains unassimilated by today’s crop of players.[35]

Oscar Peterson cited Tatum as one of the most “intimidating” pianists, and said that “there wasn’t a jazz pianist of the era who wasn’t influenced by him”.[39] Critic Gunther Schuller declared, “On one point there is universal agreement: Tatum’s awesome technique.”[40] That technique was marked by a calm physical demeanor and efficiency. Tatum did not indulge in theatrical physical or facial expression. The effortless gliding of his hands over difficult passages baffled most who witnessed the phenomenon. He especially astonished other pianists to whom Tatum appeared to be “playing the impossible.”[41] Even when playing scintillating runs at high velocity, it appeared that his fingers hardly moved. Hank Jones said: "When I finally met him and got a chance to hear him play in person, it seemed as if he wasn’t really exerting much effort, he had an effortless way of playing. It was deceptive. You’d watch him and you couldn’t believe what was coming out, what was reaching your ears. He didn’t have that much motion at the piano. He didn’t make a big show of moving around and waving his hands and going through all sorts of physical gyrations to produce the music that he produced, so that in itself is amazing. There had to be intense concentration there, but you couldn’t tell by just looking at him play."[42]

Noting Tatum's impact on musicians, Benny Green stressed in The Reluctant Art, "Tatum shattered everyone; Tatum caused all other musicians to lose confidence; Tatum terrified those who thought they knew how far jazz could be taken."

Tatum played chords with a relatively flat-fingered technique compared to the curvature taught in classical training. Composer/pianist Mary Lou Williams told Whitney Balliett, “Tatum taught me how to hit my notes, how to control them without using pedals. And he showed me how to keep my fingers flat on the keys to get that clean tone.” [47] Jimmy Rowles said, “Most of the stuff he played was clear over my head. There was too much going on—both hands were impossible to believe. You couldn’t pick out what he was doing because his fingers were so smooth and soft, and the way he did it—it was like camouflage.”[48] When his fastest tracks of “Tiger Rag” are slowed down, they still reveal a coherent, syncopated rhythm. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:35, 1 June 2019 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)