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Too Marvelous for Words: The Life and Genius of Art Tatum / Edition 1

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More About This Textbook


Art Tatum defined the limits of the possible in jazz piano. Gunther Schuller called Tatum's playing "a marvel of perfection...His deep-in-the-keys full piano sonority, the tone and touch control in pyrotechnical passages...are miracles of performance." Whitney Balliett wrote "no pianist has ever hit notes more beautifully. Each one - no matter how fast the tempo - was light and complete and resonant, like the letters on a finely printed page." His famous runs have been compared to the arc left against the night sky by a Fourth-of-July sparkler. And to have heard him play, one musician said, "was as awe-inspiring as to have seen the Grand Canyon or Halley's Comet." Now, in Too Marvelous for Words, James Lester provides the first full-length biography of the greatest virtuoso performer in the history of jazz. Before this volume, little was known about Tatum, even among jazz afficionados. What were his origins, who taught him and who provided early pianistic influences, how did he break into the jazz field, what role did he play in the development of other jazz players, and what was he like when he wasn't playing? To answer these questions, Lester has conducted almost a hundred interviews for this book, with surviving family, childhood friends, schoolteachers, and the famous jazz musicians who played with him or knew him. Lester creates a memorable portrait of this unique musician and of the vibrant jazz world of the 1930s and 1940s, capturing the complexity and vitality of this remarkable performer. Tatum, who was virtually blind, suffering from 70 percent to 90 percent visual impairment, emerges as cheerful, fun-loving, energetic, and outgoing, with none of the demonic self-destructiveness that seemed to haunt such jazz greats as Charlie Parker or Billie Holiday. He was simply inexhaustible and had a lifelong habit of staying up all night after a gig, usually seeking an after-hours club to listen and play in until daybreak. Lester also reveals that Tatum was gen

Lester provides the first full-length biography of the greatest virtuoso performer in the history of jazz. This is a memorable portrait of this unique and virtually blind musician, and of the vibrant jazz world of the 1930s and 1940s, capturing the complexity and vitality of this remarkable performer. Photos.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195096408
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/28/1995
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 985,781
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
James Lester is a freelance musician, writer, researcher, and photographer in Annapolis, Maryland.

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