Art Tatum: Sophisticated Lady (1933)
Art Tatum (piano)
Piano Starts Here (Columbia 501655)
Art Tatum (piano).
Composed by Duke Ellington, Irving Mills & Mitchell Parish.
Recorded: New York, March 21, 1933
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
Only five weeks after Duke Ellington recorded his version of this now popular standard, Art Tatum features it at the session that produced his debut solo 78s. Tatum is clearly attracted by the four-chords-to-a-bar hook that Ellington employs in the second and fourth measures of the main theme. Tatum adds further ornamentation to this part of the song—but it's like too much frosting on the cake. Tatum's technique is (as always) impressive, and even three-quarters of a century later remains the benchmark against which all jazz keyboard virtuosos are measured. But the master's music is sometimes haunted by a mechanical quality—like a player piano on steroids—and this early performance has more flash than flesh. Not enough sophistication to this lady for our taste. Tatum's later recording of this same composition as part of Norman Granz's Solo Masterpieces project is more nuanced, and a far superior performance. Even so, one needs to bow to an artist who is playing with this much confidence and dexterity at his debut leader date.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia