Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Vocal by Art Tatum? Yes, Indeed!

Some time ago I had written about the Jerry Newman Archives; namely, a collection of wire recordings made by Newman of Art Tatum playing in various bars in Harlem, mostly during the year 1941. Newman at the time was a music major at Columbia University and, fortunately, had the prescience to record Tatum in a number of short masterpieces done on really bad pianos, mostly out of tune. In the 1970's a reissue of the recordings became available. I believe a clutch of these recordings was titled "God is in the House."
I'm sure that by searching, one can obtain a copy of Newman's recordings; however, what is not noted, so far as I know, are the specifics of one tune, titled "Toledo Blues."
This is a rare recording of Tatum singing as he accompanies himself. Tatum, in this riveting recording, is rather obviously under the weather, and the slurring nature of his words attests to this reality. Even more compelling is the reality of his improvising not only in his playing but also in his lyrics, as he ends the tune by grinding out in absolute synchronization with the piano the words "the drinks are comin' too damn slow."
Rather sad; however, these tunes that Newman captured are testament to the gigantic gifts that Tatum shared in increasing measure with his audiences through the next generation leading to his tragically premature passing.

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