[JPL] NYTimes.com: Steven Mayer Channels Art Tatum,
but Adds His Own Flourishes at Keyboard Festival
jwilke123 at comcast.net
Sat Jul 22 22:19:35 EDT 2006
Quoting the NY Times article:
"One of the most awestruck fans of the jazz pianist Art Tatum was the
classical pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who heard the nearly blind Tatum
play live in New York jazz clubs and collected his records. ...
Tatum, who died in 1956 at 47, has another admirer from classical music
in the pianist Steven Mayer, who has transcribed by ear, note for note,
numerous Tatum improvisations and recorded them to acclaim on a Naxos
Classical release. On Tuesday at Mannes College of Music in Manhattan,
Mr. Mayer concluded a varied recital program, part of the school’s
two-week International Keyboard Institute and Festival, with three of
his transcribed Tatum solos.
Though you can question the point of trying to replicate Tatum’s
ingenious improvisations, you have to be impressed by Mr. Mayer’s
devotion to the music and his technically brilliant playing."
Still, even Horowitz, a renowned transcriber, never took on Tatum.
I've heard that Horowitz did indeed transcribe some of Tatum's records,
played them for Tatum and used them as encores on occasion. Has anyone
else heard that or can verify it?
Another "classical" pianist who transcribed jazz solos is Jean-Yves
Thibaudet whose "Conversations with Bill Evans" CD (London Decca,
1997) is an interesting exercise and played with great skill, but seems
like an effort to create a classical music out of original jazz. It
fools me for a moment but I soon realize it's not quite Bill Evans but
a very good imitation. However, one might hope that a classical
listener could be intrigued and make an effort to seek out the original.
Attempts to domesticate and "elevate" jazz to polite society go back at
least to the 1924 Carnegie Hall debut of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"
which was purportedly "to make a Lady out of jazz." Transcribing Art
Tatum solos and playing them in a classical recital (however
well-intentioned) has a similar feel to it. But then I've never been
comfortable with jazz being described as "America's Classical Music"
because (European) classical music is about sticking to the printed
notes on the page and reproducing the composer's score accurately.
Nothing wrong with that approach, but during its development Jazz was
not about that. Great value was placed on improvisation, variation and
uniquely identifiable tonal production. Idiosyncrasies were not only
welcome, they were encouraged. Duke Ellington had a band full of unique
"America's Classical Music" is a phrase useful to grant writers because
most performing arts grants go to symphony orchestras, opera companies
and chamber music societies and this attempts to put jazz on an equal
footing with older traditions. However I think it's too limiting to
describe the variety of jazz and it downplays its most attractive
Jazz After Hours, PRI
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