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Late Night Piano: Art Tatum

by Seth Colter Walls

Late Night Piano: Art Tatum

About this playlist

Whether you're entertaining a group, cooking dinner or relaxing with a drink, what's better company than piano music in the after-work hours? We say nothing, so this week we're giving you the chance to unwind with a set of key solo sides by Art Tatum, a man whose first recordings led some to believe that he was cheating somehow. Maybe there was an extra person playing with him? Or he was multitracking? But no: Art Tatum really played that much piano, all on his own.

Playlist opener "Willow Weep for Me" comes from the live portion of a Columbia LP called Piano Starts Here. Not many musicians can get away with titles like that, but by the time this album was released, Tatum had the reputation (and chops) to make the boast stick. His legendary Standard Transcriptions, from the '30s and '40s, electrified listeners (and other pianists). Whether Tatum was "ragging the classics" -- as with Dvorak's "Humoresque" and Massenet's "Elegie" -- or riffing on popular tunes of the day (like "Over the Rainbow"), the ecstasy of his adornments makes each piece sound as though it was tailor-made for the pianist. So click play, and come back next week for some more late night piano.

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