Talk:Art Tatum

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Tidbits[edit]

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.'Cite error: A <ref> tag is missing the closing </ref> (see the help page). 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 96.242.191.180 (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]

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 96.242.191.180 (talk) 19:35, 1 June 2019 (UTC)

By the way, certain editors have taken an obsessive interest in this article, and have deleted almost every single sentence that is not supported by a footnote and a reliable citation source. To me that is highly counterproductive. Support will come in time. Hopefully Wikipedia will be around when we are all dead and will improve over the years and decades. I have no interest in competing in an edit war with these characters. The reason I call them obsessive is because most pages on Wikipedia have barely a fraction of the sourcing. Look for example at the Wiki page on the Battle of Mogadishu (1993). You can read the main article for paragraph after paragraph of factual description without encountering a single footnote of support. You can go to the Wiki page on Miles Davis' "All Blues" and read a couple of paragraphs analyzing the structure of the tune without encountering a single footnote. But because of a couple of unduly meticulous editors with overactive delete buttons, much valuable material was removed from this article in 2017 and 2018. Kolef

Could you please sign your posts here? Thanks. Martinevans123 (talk) 09:38, 30 May 2019 (UTC)
And... if you're the same Kolef who started making this sort of comment 11 years ago, you should have grasped from the response of others, Wikipedia principles and progress that we need sources and that high quality articles on Wikipedia are not filled with repetitious anecdotes and unsourced information. Your argument – 'I've found a really bad article, so it's ok to make this other article bad too' – is not going to gather much support. If 'obsessive' means trying to improve articles instead of making them worse, then yes, some of us are obsessive. EddieHugh (talk) 11:22, 30 May 2019 (UTC)
Talk about obsessive, it seems that you have been trying to get rid of the section on praise for Tatum for at least 11 years. To you it is subjective, anecdotal, repetitive flag-waving. This is not, however, fanboy blogging about someone's favorite band. The fact that some of the greatest musicians of all time lavished extravagant praise upon Tatum demonstrates how great he was. And the quotes are worth preserving because each is different, each is remarkable and each comes from a unique individual who was prominent and celebrated. The source of the comments is everything, and there are very few artists in any field about whom there is such unanimity of opinion among other preeminent artists. I wish you could understand the implications of that. 96.242.191.180 (talk) 03:31, 31 May 2019 Compare also, for example, the Wiki page on Gene Kelly. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Kelly And Kelly is picked at random, as I am sure there are hundreds if not thousands of Wiki pages that contain praise and honorifics dedicated to their respective subjects. Mr. Kelly's page has a section that lists 40 different awards and honors the he won. Yet editor Hugh feels that encomiums honoring Art Tatum are "unencyclopedic". Talk about subjective. I am done with the edit war Hugh and his cronies waged against me, and I will simply say that each and every one of the quotes by musical luminaries praising Art Tatum are just as valid or more so that the honors accorded to Mr. Kelly. 96.234.63.6 (talk) 00:23, 12 November 2019 (UTC)Kolef96.234.63.6 (talk) 00:23, 12 November 2019 (UTC) (UTC)Kolef96.242.191.180 (talk) 03:31, 31 May 2019 (UTC)
My first Wikipedia edit was in 2012 and my first on this article was in 2013. We have comments that cover the extraordinary: "his accomplishment [...] was of a different order from what most people, from what even musicians, had ever heard. It made musicians reconsider their definitions of excellence, of what was possible" ... "Others, including trumpeter Rex Stewart and pianists Oscar Peterson and Bobby Short, were overwhelmed and began to question their own abilities. Some musicians, including Les Paul and Everett Barksdale, stopped playing the piano and switched to another instrument after hearing Tatum". Each person is unique; sure, so quotations from how many people should be included? I agree that the quotations are worth preserving, but an encyclopedia article is not the right place: "A Wikipedia article should not be a complete exposition of all possible details, but a summary of accepted knowledge regarding its subject"; that's the policy at this encyclopedia. EddieHugh (talk) 11:04, 31 May 2019 (UTC)
While Wikipedia's written policies and guidelines should be taken seriously, they can be misused. Do not follow an overly strict interpretation of the letter of policies without consideration for their principles. 96.242.191.180 (talk) 19:52, 31 May 2019 (UTC)Kolef96.242.191.180 (talk) 19:52, 31 May 2019 (UTC)

Lots of what you're putting here is in the article, properly sourced and appropriately summarised. There is an edit history too for anyone who wants to find previous versions. Putting on a talk page sourced or even some unsourced information that might be of use somewhere to editors can be useful, but previous wordings, multiple-sentence quotations that have been shortened or paraphrased in the article (with the source listed for anyone who wants to find out more), and things that are still in it are simply clutter on this page. EddieHugh (talk) 21:02, 1 June 2019 (UTC)

I have selectively saved certain material here because it's valuable and informative, and although it may be somewhere spread across edit history, it would take a hell of a lot of digging to find it, and if it's more than 500 revisions ago, I assume it's lost forever. 96.242.191.180 (talk) 00:44, 2 June 2019 (UTC)Kolef96.242.191.180 (talk) 00:44, 2 June 2019 (UTC)

References

  1. ^ Ira Gitler Remembers Art Tatum, http://www.in.com/videos/watchvideo-ira-gitler-remembers-art-tatum-3899634.html
  2. ^ The author of a biography of Bud Powell refers to "the Harlem-piano tradition of the previous generation, of all-night contests in bars or apartments." Pullman, "Wail: The Life of Bud Powell", http://www.wailthelifeofbudpowell.com/excerpt/ Brooklyn, NY: Peter Pullman, LLC, ISBN 978-0-9851418-0-6
  3. ^ Lester, Too Marvelous for Words, p. 174 (quoting from pianist Billy Taylor)
  4. ^ Bill Crow, Jazz Anecdotes, Oxford Univ. Press, 1991, p. 277
  5. ^ Told by Peterson himself on "Omnibus: Oscar Peterson and Andre Previn" – BBC, 1977; and "In the Key of Oscar" – NFB Documentary, 1992
  6. ^ Jazz Professional, 1962, http://www.jazzprofessional.com/interviews/Oscar%20Peterson_Points.htm
  7. ^ Journal, Oscar Peterson, March 7, 2004
  8. ^ March 30, 1996 interview with Hank Jones, reprinted in liner notes to Art Tatum, 20th Century Piano Genius, Verve reissue 1996
  9. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference autogenerated1 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  10. ^ Cite error: The named reference NPR was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  11. ^ Sheils, James. "Bach and Jazz – Melodic Presentation". Field Lines. fieldlines.org. Archived from the original on July 23, 2018. Retrieved September 11, 2012. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  12. ^ Himes, Geoffrey (December 2011). "1 Pianist, 2 Hands". DownBeat. Vol. 78 no. 12. p. 45.

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Culture of Tatum's Toledo in 1909[edit]

This section is well-written, very informative and quite well-sourced, but I think it's somewhat WP:UNDUE in an article about Tatum. I'd suggest that much of it may be relevant to his parents, but not directly relevant to Tutum himself. Martinevans123 (talk) 09:35, 4 September 2018 (UTC)

Agreed. I put a bit of it in the 'Early life' section and cut the rest. EddieHugh (talk) 20:58, 13 October 2018 (UTC)
Good stuff. Many thanks. Martinevans123 (talk) 21:03, 13 October 2018 (UTC)

Parents' birthplaces[edit]

Where exactly are "Martinsville, West Virginia" and "Statesville, South Carolina"? Answers on a postcard please? Many thanks. Martinevans123 (talk) 20:54, 9 October 2018 (UTC)

Are there people working on projects for those states that might have the answers?
Vmavanti (talk) 23:47, 9 October 2018 (UTC)
Good idea. But not sure where to post a question at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject West Virginia. Martinevans123 (talk) 14:19, 13 October 2018 (UTC)
Yes I had added Statesville, North Carolina, and Martinsville, Virginia. But, as User:EddieHugh was quick to point out, they are both contrary to the current source. So I was quite happy to go with his restore and added hidden notes. Martinevans123 (talk) 14:40, 13 October 2018 (UTC)
The source is not infallible, and itself is cited to something else. Considering that his father was born less than two decades after the Civil War, and his mother only shortly thereafter, their records are likely nonexistent, missing, or lost to the mists of time. If no towns by those names ever existed, then they could not have been born there. Considering they both ended up in Ohio, I'd cast serious doubt as to being born in unknown towns in SC and WV. It's likely that someone interviewed Art and he spoke from memory, getting each location slightly wrong. (Heck, I can't even swear to you offhand where my own father grew up (some hamlet population 30 in South Carolina; either Cross Anchor or Cross Keys, I can't remember which). Softlavender (talk) 14:50, 13 October 2018 (UTC)
If there's a source for the changes, then please add it. If there isn't, then the best thing to do is to cut the birthplaces. We shouldn't put in things that we assume to be corrections of what's in a source, and leave the citation to that source in place. For example, there's no "Martinsville, West Virginia", but there is a "New Martinsville, West Virginia"... and a "Martinsville, Virginia". In the absence of a source, we have no idea which one is correct. EddieHugh (talk) 14:51, 13 October 2018 (UTC)
What Softlavender says makes sense, but I'd be happy to leave them out for now, with explanatory hidden notes if required. Martinevans123 (talk) 14:56, 13 October 2018 (UTC)
Great, thanks! Balliett looks good; Lester probably (mis-)copied it from there. EddieHugh (talk) 15:11, 13 October 2018 (UTC)
Given that Lester got both cities wrong, I don't think he ever set eyes on the Balliet, and I would seriously question any other significant important details in the Lester book. IMO, anything from the Lester book should be checked via other sources as well for re-verification, if possible. Softlavender (talk) 15:38, 13 October 2018 (UTC)
That's the plan. It gets complicated, though, as Lester's the main source for anyone who wrote about Tatum after its publication. If I can look through original newspapers to check some dates, I will. I haven't decided if I'll continue in detail with Tatum or move on to another pianist who's poorly covered here (there's plenty of choice, sadly). EddieHugh (talk) 15:58, 13 October 2018 (UTC)
Lester seems to be the favoured as the main source for this article currently. But not having access to either Lester or Balliet, I'm not able to pass any judgement. Martinevans123 (talk)
Balliett is just a few pages; Lester is a whole book on Tatum. Lester cites the first edition of Balliett (American Musicians: Fifty-six Portraits in Jazz) as a source, but I haven't seen that one. EddieHugh (talk) 16:05, 13 October 2018 (UTC)

Discography[edit]

Is anyone prepared to work on the discography section? It's a mess and I don't really have the resources to sort it out. If not, I'll split it off into a separate article. EddieHugh (talk) 13:13, 12 November 2018 (UTC)

I'm going to delete some of the compilations unless you object.
Vmavanti (talk) 19:04, 5 January 2019 (UTC)

Evidently not worthy of the main article, here are some of the "compilation" albums that were deleted:

I Got Rhythm: Art Tatum, Vol. 3 (1935–44), Decca, 1993 Fine Art & Dandy, Drive Archive, 1994 The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Vol. 2, Pablo, 1994 Marvelous Art, Star Line, 1994 House Party, Star Line, 1994 Masters of Jazz, Vol. 8, Storyville, 1994 California Melodies, Memphis Archives, 1994 1934–40, Jazz Chronological Classics, 1994 1932–44 (3-CD Box Set), Jazz Chronological Classics, 1995 The Rococo Piano of Art Tatum, Pearl Flapper, 1995 I Know That You Know, Jazz Club, 1995 Piano Solo Private Sessions October 1952, New York, Musidisc, 1995 The Art of Tatum, ASV Living Era, 1995 Trio Days, Le Jazz, 1995 1933–44, Best of Jazz, 1995 1940–44, Jazz Chronological Classics, 1995 Vol. 16-Masterpieces, Jazz Archives Masterpieces, 1996 20th Century Piano Genius 20th Century/Verve, 1996 Body & Soul, Jazz Hour, 1996 Solos (1937) and Classic Piano, Forlane, 1996 Complete Capitol Recordings, Blue Note, 1997 Memories of You (3-CD Set) Black Lion, 1997 On the Sunny Side Topaz Jazz, 1997 1944, Giants of Jazz, 1998 Standard Sessions (2-CD Set), Music & Arts, 1996 & 2002/Storyville 1999 Piano Starts Here – Live at The Shrine (Zenph Re-Performance), Sony BMG Masterworks, 2008 — Preceding unsigned comment added by 100.8.184.48 (talk) 21:34, 11 January 2019 (UTC)

Doing it justice would be both a huge amount of work and result in something large, so I've split it off. EddieHugh (talk) 20:48, 30 May 2019 (UTC)

Is enotes a reliable source?[edit]

Anyone know?
Vmavanti (talk) 19:03, 5 January 2019 (UTC)

Specifics (sourced)[edit]

In going through the Style and Technique sections, I've cut some unsourced specifics of what Tatum played. I've kept what's sourced, but there's a lack of detail. It's easy to find sources saying broad things such as 'Tatum was harmonically ahead of his time', 'his runs were fast', 'he used the pedals well', but what I'd like to be able to add is specific detail on exactly what these harmonies were, what fingering he used on runs, how he used the pedals, etc. Unusable sources can be found for some of this stuff, but that's no use. It's not essential, but such detail would be good to have. So: can anyone find (sourced) info on any such specifics? EddieHugh (talk) 22:38, 28 May 2019 (UTC)

I appreciate the difficulties. I would, of course, recommend adding links to as many actual examples of his playing as possible (copyright compliance permitting). Critical commentary is valuable for any encyclopedia article, of course... and then there's the actual music. Martinevans123 (talk) 22:44, 28 May 2019 (UTC)

Very high speed[edit]

The lead section currently says this:

"His playing encompassed everything that had come before, added great harmonic and rhythmic imagination and variation, and was often at very high speed."

That seems perfectly concise, accurate and fair to me. Why does to need to change? Thanks. Martinevans123 (talk) 18:45, 5 June 2019 (UTC)

"His playing encompassed everything that had come before". Really, did it encompass Beethoven, Haydn and Brahms? And if you are trying to provide an overview of Tatum, simply referring to his technique as being of "very high speed" is woefully inadequate. It was the combination of complexity and speed that was unique. It is neither an exaggeration nor boosterism to say that he had enormous virtuoso technique. It is fact. But some editors can't accept it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 96.242.191.180 (talk) 19:02, 5 June 2019 (UTC)
Thank you for taking this to the talk page. The context for that sentence comes from the preceding one: "Tatum is widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists". The topic is thus Tatum as a jazz piano player. It can be changed if it's not clear. In response to your concerns, the sentence has already been changed: from "added great harmonic and rhythmic imagination and variation" to "added great harmonic and rhythmic imagination and complexity". The problem with something such as "virtuoso technique" is that it's not descriptive. It creates a positive impression for the reader, but doesn't really inform; in contrast, "great harmonic and rhythmic imagination and complexity, and was often at very high speed" presents the reader with information about key elements of his playing. ...But, the article's still being gone through, including the lead, so there may be a way to incorporate it without removing the descriptive wording. EddieHugh (talk) 19:13, 5 June 2019 (UTC)
I'd argue that virtuosity is not "a fact", but rather a subjective judgement or appraisal, usually made by an expert or, more usually, by a number of experts. Hmmm, a boosterism, eh? Is that like a Woosterism only more boostering? Martinevans123 (talk) 19:27, 5 June 2019 (UTC)

deleted NPR broadcast[edit]

[1] refers to a bunch of audio clips that might be interesting but are now 404. Might be worth trying to dig up copies. The text mentions thatTatum liked to play cards. I wonder how he did that without being able to see them. 67.164.113.165 (talk) 23:34, 18 August 2019 (UTC)