Segments in this Video

Admiring a Jazz Great (01:46)


Les Paul talks about hearing Art Tatum for the first time. He knew he could never measure up to Tatum’s skill, so he left the piano for the guitar.

"Tiger Rag" (03:26)

Eddie Barefield lived across the street from Art Tatum in Toledo in 1932; he recalls hearing him play for the first time. Hear an early solo from the Brunswick Recordings and see a montage of album covers.

Flying Fingers (02:07)

Les Paul describes Art Tatum's flat hand keyboard techniques—his hands moved so quickly on the piano that they appeared motionless. See footage of the jazz virtuoso playing at the Three Deuces Club in Chicago.

Stride Piano (02:58)

James P. Johnson developed the jazz style from Scott Joplin's ragtime. Pianists Dick Hyman and Hank Jones demonstrate the technique used by virtuosos Fats Wallar and Art Tatum.

"Sweet Lorraine" (02:13)

Maurice Waller recalls his father Fats' friendship with Art Tatum. Milt Hinton describes how Tatum used his stride piano technique to play multiple musical parts at unofficial restaurants in Chicago apartment buildings.

Musical Beginnings (02:19)

Karl Tatum recalls hearing his older brother Art play piano in Toledo and predicting his success as a jazz musician. Their parents sent Art to a school for the blind where he developed his talent. He played local venues; Toledo was a city with unusually little racial conflict.

Brunswick Solo Recordings (02:45)

Art Tatum's big break came when he performed with singer Adelaide Hall. Arnold Laubich discusses how he soon became more popular than her, taking the jazz world by storm in 1933. His primary inspirations were Fats Waller, Lee Sims and early stride style pianists like Earl Hines.

Improvisation Skill (03:49)

Maurice Waller discusses how Art Tatum could play for half an hour without playing the same passage twice. Paul Machlin believes his greatest strength was his creativity, although his technique was also important. He furthered Fats Waller's style and set the stage for jazz piano for the bebop movement.

Keyboard Genius (04:33)

See Art Tatum perform a jazz piece. Paul Machlin discusses how his unprecedented technique is still unmatched worldwide. His roots in stride piano were passed on to avant garde pianist Thelonius Monk.

Tatum's Harmonic Legacy (02:14)

Dick Hyman compares the pianist's technique to that of Charlie Parker, whose saxophone innovations later influenced jazz players universally. See Parker perform.

Oscar Peterson (01:28)

Dick Hyman believes the jazz pianist comes close to replicating Art Tatum's technique. See him perform.

Washing Away the Competition (03:23)

Hank Jones recalls Art Tatum's fondness of after-hours clubs in New York. One night, they went to a venue with notable stride pianists; Tatum played after everyone and put them to shame. See photos from Tatum's childhood in Toledo.

Unique Touch (02:14)

Hank Jones discusses Art Tatum's ability to make poor quality pianos sound like concert instruments. Les Paul tells a story of Tatum skillfully playing around broken keys during a jam session.

Cognitive Skills (01:04)

Jazz pianist Art Tatum loved sports and had a memory for statistics. Milt Hinton recalls playing pinochle with him during set breaks in 1935; he would memorize his hand because of his poor eyesight.

Playing with Other Musicians (02:13)

In 1943, Art Tatum formed a trio with Slam Stewart and Tiny Grimes in Los Angeles. They soon drew a crowd and toured with success. Hear a recording of their work.

Media Exposure (02:42)

Despite few concert hall opportunities for jazz pianists in the '30s and '40s, Art Tatum was interviewed on several radio programs. He also appeared in "The Fabulous Dorseys." See a scene from the film.

Classical Influence (02:08)

Art Tatum incorporated musical themes from his childhood studies. Hear a variation of Dvorak's "Humoreskes." Younger brother Karl discusses his creativity and quick mental capacity that set him apart from other jazz pianists.

Singing the Blues (01:38)

Les Paul recalls Art Tatum's hidden talent that only emerged after his piano performances in empty clubs. Hear a rare vocal recording.

Losing a Legendary Pianist (06:04)

Art Tatum played until just before his death in 1956 of kidney failure. Friends and colleagues discuss his unmatched talent that continues to inspire the jazz world.

Credits: Art Tatum: The Art of Jazz Piano (00:29)

Credits: Art Tatum: The Art of Jazz Piano

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or

Art Tatum: The Art of Jazz Piano

3-Year Streaming Price: $69.95



This portrait documents the legendary jazz pianist Art Tatum. With rare photographs and footage of Tatum and his contemporaries, the film reconstructs his genius. Included are interviews with musicians who either played with or were strongly inflenced by Tatum: pianists Marian McPartland, Hank Jones, Dick Hyman, and George Shearing; and guitarists Tiny Grimes and Les Paul. Their reminiscences and demonstrations underline Tatum's status as the "musician's musician." (52 minutes)

Length: 52 minutes

Item#: BVL50936

Copyright date: ©2008

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video, Dealer and Publisher customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.