Sunday, April 23, 2006


"God is in the house..."

Here is your treat...

It is anecdotally recorded that one night, at the Cotton Club in Harlem, Fats Waller was in the middle of a set where he was just plain 'on it'. He was cooking. Suddenly, after he looks out into the audience, he stops playing, in the middle of a number. Just stops. He then stands up and steps away from the piano, picks up the microphone, and says "Ladies and gentlemen, God is in the house tonight..." as he points and bows to Art Tatum, who had just come into the club.

Art Tatum. One of the BEST improvisational piano players EVER. Few could hold a candle to him. He could take a simple tune and expand upon it until it became a symphony. He was extremely gifted, yet a very shy man off the stage. He would let his fingers on the 88 keys do all the talking he ever needed to do.

Art Tatum. What else can I say?

I have an incomplete set on ARA records of Art in a solo setting. I'm missing one of the discs, but I'll gladly post the contents of the other three.

"Poor Butterfly"
"Running Wild"
"Memories Of You"

These six tunes show just how easily Art could jump from one mode into another, stride one minute, and almost free-improv the next. These were all recorded in one session, as the matrix numbers are pretty much sequential... just imagine Art ambling into the studio, sitting at the piano, and all the recording engineer had to do was to start the lathe and nod to the Man. Then Magic occurred. Can't be more elequent than that, I guess. Or, maybe, further elequence would be wasted... listen and be transported into Art's World. It's well worth the trip.

I am sorry to say that "Hallelujah" was pressed off-center, that's why it sounds off-key. ARA was never very good with their quality control, but at least the shellac quality on these was well above their average.

If anyone has the fourth disc to this set, please leave me a note in the comments, if nothing more than to get mp3 files to complete this set digitally. Thank you.

Art Tatum.



Bless and thank you for the Art Tatum. I like to think of Eubie Blake and Jerome Kern possibly hearing these recordings of their best-known songs and feeling immense gratitude. Thanks also for the Fats Waller anecdote. One good turn deserves another. About five years ago, I went to a concert given by a Jewish pianist who lived in Leipzig and fled the Nazis. She used to play the same organ that Bach did and always tried to imagine how his works would sound if he were there playing them. One day shortly after arriving in New York, she walked by a Harlem church and heard Bach played as if the master had reincarnated in America. She went inside the church and found the player to be Fats Waller.
One of Fats' dreams was to record Bach works... but no producer wanted to take what they thought was a risk... Too bad!
I'm saving the Tatum sides for later. He makes me way too nervous...
Art Tatum - such vituosity is beyond understanding for us mere mortals. And speaking of Fats, do you have any in your stacks?
I have the art tatum set..includes a record [78] that you didn't mention..."song of the Vagabonds" and "Kerry Dance."
What's the value of this set?? I have all the records plus the case/cover, which is ART TATUM 'PIANO IMPRESSIONS' [color cover] ARA records R-4500.

Anyone interested in purchasing this???

I have all four of these discs ARA 4503 but no longer have the album.
John Hepler
Thank you, thank you, thank you! It's tragic that he's such an under-rated talent today, in an era of such mediocrity. How the hell did he achieve so much in such a short time. To mis-quote Tom Lehrer, "by the time he was my age, he'd been dead five years!" God is indeed in the house.

Thanks for sharing.
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