Art Tatum – Piano Starts Here

I just picked up a copy of Art Tatum’s Piano Starts Here, and although I remember hearing it whenever my dad played it, listening to it close to forty years later, I’m amazed at how fresh it still sounds today. Recently, a friend and fellow Jazz piano enthusiast has a copy in his vinyl collection and described listening to it as “challenging”. I personally can’t think of a better descriptor.

Art Tatum was a child prodigy, blessed with Perfect Pitch, and thus was self-taught. His style and speed are unsurpassed which is why Tatum is considered by the Jazz community to be the best Jazz pianist in the history of the genre. And while this could probably be debated by some, there is no disputing the fact that he most certainly changed the way piano was played when it came to Jazz itself.

There are several different variations of Piano Starts Here, with several reissues and even a live version of the album, but my personal opinion is that if you’ve not yet had the pleasure of hearing this Jazz masterpiece, I suggest getting a copy of the original 1939 version first and then go from there.

From the opening Tea For Two thru the closing Man I Love, top to bottom, this is a solid, well crafted album and in my opinion, the standard by which all Jazz piano music is to be judged by, it’s that good. But be warned, it’s not for the timid of heart, as it is challenging to listen to the first time. Your ears are not deceiving you, however. The ability and speed of Tatum’s playing is mind-blowing enough, but the ease with which he plays these 13 songs makes giving the album a second and even third listen almost mandatory, but with each listen will come nuances and phrasing you most certainly missed the first or second time around.

Piano Starts Here is a must have piece of vinyl that any self-respecting Jazz fan should own a copy of, but if at all possible and within ones budget, getting the vinyl version is far preferable over compact disc, especially if hearing it for the first time as the CD is far too sterile to do this fantastic piano masterpiece the true justice it deserves.

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