Monday, December 9, 2013

Art Tatum: “The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces Volume One” CD Review

The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces Volume One is a collection of solo piano recordings made in 1953 and 1955. Those recordings, along with some made in 1954, included more than one hundred twenty-five songs, and were released as boxed sets and as more than a dozen albums. The tracks on this CD are from Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Vol. 1 and Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces Vol. 9. The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces Volume One was released by Concord Music Group as part of its Original Jazz Classics Remasters series. The tracks were remastered by Joe Tarantino. There is still some hiss in the sound at times.

Art Tatum was an incredible jazz pianist. I love the way he seems able to accompany himself during wild lead sections. He’s all the support he needs. He’s capable of dancing lightly ahead while also maintaining the base or foundation of a song.

On “Moonglow,” he includes interesting changes in pace, and lots of playful touches throughout. There is some wild and impressive work. He’s clearly a one-man band who needs no accompaniment.

With “Love For Sale,” Art Tatum shows he can embody and express the beauty of a song while still having a great sense of humor, sense of play, and leap out of the bounds and come right back in when he chooses. He takes us through all sorts of changes, like a slightly mad conductor.

This CD includes a great version of “Just A-Sittin’ And A-Rockin’.” He can certainly play the hell out of a tune, and still allow those quiet, slower moments to shine, as he does here with this song written by Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn and Lee Gaines. I also love when he gets going, his left hand playing a bass line, his right hand playing more of a piano line, and then what seems like some third hand as horn or guitar.

Art Tatum finds more places for some sweet beauty on Rodgers and Hart’s “Have You Met Miss Jones?” There are some commanding chords as well as those runs he’s so fond of up and down the keys. This is one of the CD’s many strong tracks. Tatum also does a playful rendition of Rogers and Hart’s “You Took Advantage Of Me” that track having such a delightful vibe about it.

“Stay As Sweet As You Are,” maybe more than any other track, has such a strong beauty. There are moments that are gorgeous, yet Art Tatum doesn’t get lost in those moments. He steps away from them, then allows himself to return, which only increases our love for those passages. This is one of my favorite tracks, composed by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel.

I also love what he does with “I’m In The Mood For Love.” It’s beautiful and sweet but also adventurous – as if that’s the type of love he’s in the mood for. Something steady, but with an unpredictable element. And therein lies its charm.

“Blue Lou” is a very cool and fun tune, the notes falling perfectly, clearly and often rapidly. I totally dig this track. And the CD concludes with a Gershwin tune, “Embraceable You.” You really can’t go wrong with Gershwin, as Tatum proves here. I love the mix of powerful, gorgeous playing with those light dancing steps he takes across the keyboard.

CD Track List

  1. Moonglow
  2. Love For Sale
  3. Body And Soul
  4. Just A-Sittin’ And A-Rockin’
  5. It’s Only A Paper Moon
  6. Have You Met Miss Jones?
  7. Stay As Sweet As You Are
  8. My Last Affair
  9. Willow Weep For Me
  10. Too Marvelous For Words
  11. You Took Advantage Of Me
  12. Sophisticated Lady
  13. I’m In The Mood For Love
  14. Everything I Have Is Yours
  15. Blue Lou
  16. Embraceable You

The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces Volume One was released on September 17, 2013 through Concord Music Group as part of the Original Jazz Classics Remasters series. Also released on that date, in the Original Jazz Classics Remasters series, were Duke Ellington And His Orchestra: The Ellington Suites; Zoot Sims: Zoot Sims And The Gershwin Brothers; Oscar Peterson & Stephane Grappelli: Skol; and Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Pass, Ray Brown, Mickey Roker: Dizzy’s Big 4.

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