Sunday, February 06, 2005

Jazz And Listening


I just finished watching Ray. A fine movie. Early on Ray Charles hears Art Tatum in a night club. He recognizes Tatum's playing immediately. I don't know if the musicians met later on, but they had more than jazz in common. Courtesy of Jazz and Conversation, quoting from Jazz by Ken Burns:
"One evening Fats Waller was playing in a New York club when he heard a stir in the audience. A large heavy man was making his way among the tables. Waller stopped playing. 'Ladies and gentlemen' he said. 'I just play piano, but God is in the house'. Then he left the piano bench so Tatum could take over."

"He was born in Toledo in 1909, totally blind in one eye and nearly sightless in the other. He began picking out tunes on the piano at three, was playing hymns in church at five, and trying to imitate the piano rolls his mother brought home for him to hear. According to his neighbor, the singer Jon Hendricks, he even mastered one lightning-fast duet, not knowing it took four hands to record the original. He had a memory for melody so photographic, that he rarely had to hear a tune more than once to play it back with embellishments, and an ear for pitch so uncanny that he could tell the denomination of a coin dropped on a table by the sound it made."