Art Tatum: Runnin' Wild
Art Tatum (piano)
Standards (1201 Music)
Art Tatum (piano).
Composed by Joe Grey, Leo Wood & A. Harrington Gibbs.
Recorded: New York, August, 1938
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
Any Tatum performance could be selected as the final word on common-practice stride. I chose this one because it is the title piece from the James P. Johnson revue that exploded "The Charleston" the world over. Tatum had tremendous respect for Johnson (and Fats Waller too). It is easy to hear this version of "Runnin' Wild" as a tribute.
One detail under-discussed in the Tatum literature is his swinging beat. It is almost too much: Not only is Tatum the greatest pianist technically, among the most advanced harmonically, and unrivaled when casually recasting a pop tune's melody as an improvised effusion - Tatum swings incredibly hard.
Occasionally I see reference to Tatum as a glorified cocktail pianist or a musician unconversant with the blues. These charges are ludicrous. Tatum was just the best, that's all: it may be hard to accept, but it's true.
I am not religious, nor even particularly spiritual. But when I consider the depth of accomplishment Tatum had from a youthful age, as a nearly blind, black man from Toledo, Ohio in Jim Crow times, I can't help but acknowledge that he must have had unearthly assistance. Fats Waller said it, when Tatum dropped by his gig: "I play the piano, but God is in the house."
Reviewer: Ethan Iverson