24 JAN 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
Although born without great vision, Art Tatum was blessed with such insight and dexterity for piano that Tatum remains the benchmark for jazz pianists more than one hundred years after his birth. The Tatum Group Masterpieces Volume 6 (Pablo, 1990) presents the pianist's pianist in tandem with bassist Red Callender and "Papa" Jo Jones, the most famous drummer from the Count Basie band.
Where do you even begin with piano playing like this? It almost sounds unreal for someone to play piano as quickly and brilliantly as Tatum. His ability to roll rhythms and melodies against each other in "Blue Lou" is simply jaw-dropping. "Just One of Those Things" sounds incomprehensibly fast and complex and yet somehow like truly joyful music, too. Callender and Jones are two of the all-time greats on bass and drums, but it sounds on Masterpieces 6 like they can barely keep up.
"Trio Blues" is a solid jam of funky twists and starts that heats up and glows with blue soul. For "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plans" and "Some Other Spring," Tatum reaches back for the steadily rocking, two-handed punch of stride piano, and then ties them up, like colorful ribbons, in his rippling runs.
Between 1954-'56, Pablo recorded eight different volumes of Tatum Group Masterpieces that teamed him with Benny Carter, Roy Eldridge, Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich, Ben Webster and other jazz legends. They delivered a triumphant elegy upon Tatum's 1956 passing.