Jazz Artist of the Week
One of the greatest improvisers in jazz history, Art Tatum also set the standard for technical dexterity with his classic 1933 recording of "Tea for Two." Nearly blind, Tatum's artistic vision and ability made him an icon of jazz piano, a musician whose impact will be felt for generations to come. Born Arthur Tatum, Jr. on October 13, 1909 in Toledo, Ohio, the pianist had lost most of his sight by the age of four. He received some formal training on the piano at the Toledo School of Music, learning to read sheet music with the aid of glasses and then in Braille. But Tatum was primarily self-taught, cribbing from piano rolls, phonograph recordings, and radio broadcasts while learning what he could from musicians he encountered. Tatum was not only made a favorite among jazz musicians, but also European classical musicians like Conductor Leopold Stokowski, composer Sergei Rachmaninov and pianist Vladimir Horowitz. But as Tatum's virtuosity continued to awe his fellow musicians, many music critics vilified his playing as being overbearing. Although Tatum was not considered a bebop jazz musician, he had a legion of bop followers like the alto saxophone icon Charlie Parker and pianist Bud Powell, and he became a mentor for pianists Billy Taylor and Oscar Peterson.