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Art Tatum: The Complete Pablo Group Masterpieces

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Art Tatum: The Complete Pablo Group Masterpieces

Current Status:
In Season
Art Tatum
Jazz, Reissues

We gave it an A

The season’s most munificent rerelease is The Complete Pablo Group Masterpieces, a compact disc edition of recordings that pianist Tatum — the supreme virtuoso of flash and filigree — made with small bands during his last years, 1954-1956. The six discs include 12 previously unissued performances, though none is a masterpiece; the hottest new find is a quintet version of ”What Is This Thing Called Love?”, played so preposterously fast that everyone but the leader becomes unglued. Tatum, who counted Rachmaninoff among his admirers, was legally blind and sounded as if he had four hands. His dazzling ornamentation and reharmonizing of familiar songs are intoxicating, but so busy they intimadated other musicians (he is most celebrated for his solo recordings). Those who rose to the occasion were inspired, especially Ben Webster (whose breathy entrance on ”Gone With the Wind” is spellbinding) and Roy Eldridge. Buddy DeFranco and Benny Carter also brave the whirlwind with frequently astonishing results. The unidentified singer on ”Verve Blues” is Lionel Hampton. A