3 Books About How Art Tatum Became a Legendary Jazz Musician

Posted on July 27, 2023

by Megan D

Art Tatum was a tremendous pianist and is celebrated for the complexity and speed of his performances. Despite being legally blind, Tatum was mostly self-taught.

He received his classical training at home – memorizing and practicing full piano concertos and listening to the family radio and Victrola (his early influences were Fats Waller and Earl Hines); and his formal training at the Ohio State School for the Blind in Columbus and the Toledo School of Music (he played from sheet music in Braille).  In his teens, he hosted his own local radio program.  As his performances became vastly more sophisticated, he entranced audiences at jazz clubs across town (Waiters and Bellman’s Club on Indiana Ave. or Chicken Charlie’s at 616 Lafayette St.), and at speakeasies, rent parties, and concert halls around the country (Cleveland, New York, etc.).  A captivating instrumentalist, Tatum’s ability to improvise, through enchanting runs or strong stride emphasis, gave his renditions a dazzling depth.  (He also had an encyclopedic memory for Major League Baseball statistics.) Today, Tatum continues to serve as a major artistic influence on generations of jazz pianists.

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