The Corner

Culture

Tea for All

Tatum, that wizard (Wikimedia Commons)

My latest Jaywalking has some U.S. politics, and some Europe, and some porn (I mean, a comment on its awful impact). It also has some music, including a Latvian folk song and an Italian coloratura chestnut. Plus some Art Tatum.

The episode is titled “Pretty Much the Greatest Thing That Ever Happened.” That’s what I say about a moment in a Tatum arrangement — his treatment of Dvořák’s “Humoresque.”

Tatum stories are legion, and I was relating some with a friend of mine earlier this week. Every pianist, classical or jazz, has been in awe of Tatum. When Oscar Peterson first heard him, “I gave up the piano for two solid months and had crying fits at night.” That’s what he told André Previn, in this well-loved interview (an interview that includes plenty of playing, from both men).

Vladimir Horowitz was a great Tatum fan. The story is told — Previn tells it, in his sit-down with Peterson — that Horowitz worked up variations on “Tea for Two.” He played them for Tatum. Then Tatum sat down and went to town on “Tea for Two” himself. Horowitz asked, “When did you come up with that?” Tatum, that wizard, was improvising.

By the way, do you know Shostakovich’s treatment of “Tea for Two”? He called it “Tahiti Trot” (and you can listen to it here). The piece arose from a bet. Wonderful story. I told it in a Corner post, some years ago (here).

Anyway, try my Jaywalking, which gives you dollops of music, along with thoughts on the big bad world (and sometimes a good world, it is true).

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