Monday, March 26, 2018

From my dad’s CDs

I’m still making my way through my dad’s CDs: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Ivie Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Mildred Bailey, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Art Blakey, Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins, Clifford Brown, Dave Brubeck, Joe Bushkin, Hoagy Carmichael, Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Charlie Christian, Rosemary Clooney, Nat “King” Cole, John Coltrane, Bing Crosby, Miles Davis, Matt Dennis, Doris Day, Blossom Dearie, Paul Desmond, Tommy Dorsey, Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Stéphane Grappelli, Bobby Hackett, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Dick Hyman, Harry James, Hank Jones, Louis Jordan, Stan Kenton, Barney Kessel, Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, Peggy Lee, Mary Ann McCall, Susannah McCorkle, Dave McKenna, Ray McKinley, Marian McPartland, Johnny Mercer, Helen Merrill, Glenn Miller, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Gerry Mulligan, Red Norvo, Anita O’Day, Charlie Parker, Joe Pass, Art Pepper, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, Boyd Raeburn, Django Reinhardt, Marcus Roberts, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Rushing, Catherine Russell, the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, Artie Shaw, George Shearing, Horace Silver, Frank Sinatra, Paul Smith, Jeri Southern, Jo Stafford, and now, Art Tatum.

My favorite Tatum performances are the ones made outside a recording studio. Some appear on God Is in the House (HighNote Records), a collection of 1940–1941 recordings made mostly in Harlem after-hours clubs. (I gave my dad that CD years ago. A friend now has it.) Other informal recordings appear on the more upscale Piano Discoveries, two LPs’ worth of 1950 and 1955 performances from the Beverly Hills home of Ray Heindorf, musical director for Warner Brothers. It’s a joy to hear Tatum joking, deflecting requests, commenting on his host’s piano, and playing like he means it.

My dad had the Discoveries LPs (20th Century Fox) when I was a boy. The CD reissue 20th Century Piano Genius (Verve), now out of print, includes further unreleased material, and ample liner notes in which pianists Hank Jones, Adam Makowicz, and Lou Stein attempt to wrap their heads around Tatum’s genius.

Here, via YouTube, are two (unembeddable) recordings from the Discoveries: “Moon Song” (Arthur Johnston–Sam Coslow) and “Would You Like to Talk a Walk?”/“After You’ve Gone” (Harry Warren–Mort Dixon–Billy Rose/Turner Layton–Henry Creamer). They speak for themselves.

[The 1961 LPs, as seen on the Internets. I recognize the mid-century design from childhood.]

I’m nearing the end of the alphabet. But I’m far from the end of the music: T also stands for Mel Tormé.

Also from my dad’s CDs
Mildred Bailey : Tony Bennett : Charlie Christian : Blossom Dearie : Duke Ellington : Coleman Hawkins : Billie Holiday : Louis Jordan : Charlie Parker : Jimmy Rushing : Artie Shaw : Frank Sinatra

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