Art Tatum: Jazz Pianist Extraordinaire

Art Tatum


Art Tatum was born October 13, 1909 in Toledo, Ohio. Tatum is regarded as one of the best pianists ever, despite being totally blind in one eye and limited vision in the other eye.

He learned to play by ear at the age of three. He attracted the attention of several well-known musicians in later years. Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong are among the musicians, that made a point to hear Tatum play in Toledo.

This clip from Ken Burns Jazz shows Tatum playing the piano and the clip also quotes musicians, on how much they revered the playing of Tatum:

The next clip demonstrates how fast Tatum can play the piano in the classic Tiger Rag:

Art Tatum in The Fabulous Dorseys movie (1947)

29 clips of his music can be heard at If you only listen to one song, then listen to Tea For Two. I can guarantee you have never heard this song played, at lightning speed the way that Art Tatum plays it:

Art Tatum fooled many jazz fans into thinking that more than one man was playing the piano, not thinking any one pianist could play that fast. It was mutually agreed by his contemporary pianists, that he was the best pianist of their era.

He died on November 5, 1956 of kidney failure in Los Angeles.

One of the best compilations of his music is Art Tatum: Piano Grand Master, which contains 99 songs at for $30.54 new and for as little as $10.99 used.

Art Tatum may have died 56 years ago, but as his tombstone says “The Music Lingers On”.





Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

2 thoughts on “Art Tatum: Jazz Pianist Extraordinaire”

  1. He’s fabulous and adorable! So sad he died so young. I’m listening to Tea for Two right now. Thanks for turning me on to his music, I never heard of him before!

  2. I had heard his name before, but never had actually listened to his music. Heard his music at and I am going to save up to get some of his music. I have heard a lot of pianists, but he is my new favorite, since nobody matches his playing. Spotify has a huge list of his songs for listening.

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