Art Tatum
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Art Tatum (1910), who arrived in New York in 1932 from provincial Ohio, was the man who summarized all of their styles, and went beyond. He very much disengaged jazz piano from the formulas of New York's stride piano and of New Orleans, and opened up unlimited horizons for it, although he personally never ventured into the avantgarde, preferring to stick to his job of ornating the melody with a virtually unlimited arsenal of tricks. His dexterity, introducing a degree of improvisation that had not been known before, resulted not only in a display of piano acrobatics (he could play the most complex passage at a speed of 400 beats per minute) but in a much broader vocabulary and a much more expressive language. He coined the language, but he failed to write the poem: his style was a baroque infrastructure of embellishments. That colossal apparatus of technique was tested mainly on brief pop tunes, it was never adequately employed for a major composition. Fame and respect came in 1933 with a breakneck version of Nick LaRocca's Tiger Rag (march 1933), and his first hit came with a solo-piano cover of Vincent Youmans' pop tune Tea for Two (march 1933). His repertory would remain of this (very trivial) quality. He mostly performed solo because his quasi-polyphonal playing almost simulated a band, and few musicians could play at his speed anyway.

He died in 1956.

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(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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