Art Tatum

From a musical family, and with limited eyesight, Art Tatum began studying and performing music at an early age. His piano teacher, Overton G. Rainey, recognized his talent, and encouraged his to pursue a career as classical a concert pianist, but Tatum was drawn to the likes of James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. At 18 he began playing interludes on a Toledo radio station, and soon had a 15 minute show. He moved to New York in 1932, and made his reputation in cutting contests with top pianists of the day. He spent the 1930s playing in the midwest and California, including private parties for Hollywood stars. Tatum was a prebop player whose personal metronome was rooted in stride piano and swing, with much impressionistic displacement of bar line. Because of his melodic and harmonic explorations, Tatum's influence was considerable. (b. 10/13/09 Toledo, OH, d. 11/4/56 Los Angeles)