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JAZZ

NEW LPs, OLD FAVORITES: TATUM, GILLESPIE, PARKER . . .

May 18, 1986|LEONARD FEATHER

"ART TATUM: 20TH CENTURY PIANO GENIUS." EmArcy 826-129-1.

Though most of the cuts on this two-LP set were released some years ago on 20th Century Fox Records, they have long been unavailable and are presented here for the first time in toto, without editing.

The occasion was a wrap party for the film "Pete Kelly's Blues" held in July, 1955, at the home of Ray Heindorf, then the musical director at Warner Bros., and owner of an excellent tape machine that captured everything played by Tatum, who was a guest that night.

Though all but two performances ("Little Man You've Had a Busy Day" and "Mr. Freddie Blues") have been heard in other Tatum versions, many of the renditions here differ substantially from their predecessors. "Sweet Lorraine," for example, may be the most inspired and unpredictable of all of his many treatments.

The liner notes, by Felicity Howlett, are detailed and insightful. As she points out, Tatum was at ease in these surroundings and did not include such showpieces as "Tiger Rag" or "Humoresque." If further evidence is needed (it really isn't) that Art Tatum was the greatest instrumental virtuoso ever produced by jazz, it can be found between these covers. 5 stars plus.

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