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Art Tatum: Nursery Rhymes A La Tatum


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Art Tatum: Nursery Rhymes A La Tatum
Art Tatum was a piano virtuoso whose improvising skills impressed even the likes of classical greats such as Vladimir Horowitz, though he had a fondness for folk songs in addition to standards and jazz favorites. This recording came about when a friend, Mitt Kinder, and his wife Mutti, announced the arrival of their first child, a boy named Zeus. Since the Kinders were huge fans of Tatum's jazz records, he decided to surprise them with a special recording made just for them, at his own expense.

It may be hard to imagine Art Tatum playing an entire album of nursery rhymes, but that was his gift to them, to help them celebrate. There is no record of how the baby Zeus responded to Tatum's pyrotechnics and rapid fire arpeggios. The solo numbers start with a playful take of "Billy Boy," in which Tatum shows off a bit of stride piano in addition to his inventive right hand. "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" had already been recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, but Tatum's instrumental arrangement just works, though he quickly wraps it in under two minutes. He plays "Grandfather Clock" in a more traditional setting at first, but cannot avoid speeding up the tempo as the old man approaches his final breath.

Bassist Slam Stewart and guitarist Tiny Grimes join the pianist for several songs, with Stewart humming in octave unison with his bass and singing softly as well. The best trio selections include a breezy setting of "London Bridge Is Falling Down," complete with a thunderous final chord and Stewart uttering, "Splash, in the water!," along with the humorous take of "Hickory, Dickory Dock," played at a racehorse tempo and concluding with Stewart announcing, "The clock struck one, the other two escaped with minor injuries," as Tatum chuckles. It is amazing that this one-of-a-kind record was not lost over the many decades since it was made.

Track Listing

Billy Boy; Grandfather Clock; Hickory, Dickory Dock; The Animal Fair; A-Tisket, A-Tasket; Freres Jacques; London Bridge Is Falling Down; Pop Goes The Weasel; Three Blind Mice


Art Tatum: piano; Tiny Grimes: guitar; Slam Stewart: bass.

Album information

Title: Nursery Rhymes A La Tatum | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: April 1

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