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Art Tatum: Trio Days (1995)

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Art Tatum: Trio Days How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

I was wrong. I like Art Tatum
Art Tatum
Art Tatum
1909 - 1956
piano
. But in a slightly different way.

My introduction to Art Tatum, many years ago, was a series of solo piano albums. They left me cold.

No question, the man was gifted beyond belief. He could play faster, more accurately and with a greater sense of fun and originality than almost any pianist between Fats Waller
Fats Waller
Fats Waller
1904 - 1943
piano
and Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
. And yet his solo work never felt right to me. Something always seemed missing. In the end, it's a matter of taste.

Recently I picked up a discarded CD from my public library for the rock-bottom price of $1. It's Art Tatum's "Trio Days." It's a no-name compilation of Tatum's piano-guitar-bass trio from 1942-44.

This I like. And now I know why.

From the very first song, I thought, "Oh my God! He's taking Fats Waller's stride and taking it one step further." I love that. Then I realized something else. The trio sounds exactly like Nat "King" Cole
Nat
Nat "King" Cole
1919 - 1965
piano
's trio from the very same period, right down to the guitarist. In fact, I had to check the liner notes to make sure it wasn't the same guitarist. It's not. Cole played with Oscar Moore
Oscar Moore
Oscar Moore
1912 - 1981
guitar
; Tatum played with Tiny Grimes
Tiny Grimes
Tiny Grimes
1916 - 1989
guitar
. But they sound absolutely identical, in a very good way.

At first, I thought Tatum's trio was the missing link between Waller and Cole. I figured Cole was copying the master. Turns out it's the other way around. After reading the liner notes, I now know it was Cole who set the mark with his popular jazz trio and Tatum who came a couple years later with a very similar trio. Not that it's an exact copy. Clearly Tatum is the superior pianist. And his bassist sometimes bows his instrument. And Tatum never sings. Otherwise, their trios are remarkably similar.

Anyway, if the only thing you know about Art Tatum are his acclaimed solo works, you need to find his trio works, too. For me, it was an eye-opener.

Track Listing: I Got Rhythm; Cocktails For Two; I Ain't Got Nobody; After You've Gone; Moonglow; Deep Purple; (I Would Do) Anything For You; Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away); Tea for Two; Honeysuckle Rose; The Man I Love; Dark Eyes; Body and Soul; I Know That You Know; On the Sunny Side of the Street; Flying Home; Boogie; If I Had You; Topsy; Soft Winds

Personnel: Art Tatum, piano; Tiny Grimes, guitar; Slam Stewart: bass

Record Label: French Riviera

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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