Imagine sitting in the room and hearing Art Tatum play in person. That is the marvel experienced with the Zenph recording “Art Tatum: Piano Starts Here.” The album contains material that has been in print for more than 50 years. But Tatum's playing was locked in the rough monaural sound of its time, until Zenph stepped in with its groundbreaking technology.
For the benefit of those unfamiliar with his work, Art Tatum was a creature from another galaxy altogether, who from October 13, 1909 to November 5, 1956 lived here on earth disguised as a jazz pianist – an impersonation given away only by the stunning speed, dexterity and musicality with which he played, far beyond the capabilities of a normal human nervous system. (The biographical details of his human persona are easily found on the Web at zenph.com/Tatum – or just ask any piano player.) His pianistic prowess has not been exceeded to this day, and has been equaled only occasionally by prodigies like Oscar Peterson. He has been called the greatest instrumentalist on any instrument in any musical genre by numerous authorities including Mssrs. Horowitz, Rachmaninoff, Gershwin, Rubinstein, Basie, Peterson, Charles and Barron.
But while Tatum's legendary performances are still unequalled, the recording and playback technology of his time have long since been left in the dust. Anyone with a modern laptop can probably make better recordings, and certainly listen to them. Enter Zenph Studios. As with their acclaimed 2006 re-performance of Glenn Gould'sThe Goldberg Variations, they used great software, great skill and keen musical sense to convert the original performance into a digital high-resolution MIDI document which perfectly mimics the mechanical details of the performance itself: tempo, attack, touch and so on. While they were at it, they retroactively repaired some tiny errors caused by tape transcription to vinyl – incorrect speed, missing segments and the like. Then they used that MIDI file to instruct a Yamaha Disklavier Pro concert grand piano, producing a re-performance that is different from the original vinyl release only in its superior sonic fidelity and dynamic range, and in its slightly more accurate account of what Tatum actually played that night of April 2, 1949.
excerpt from the liner notes by Spider Robinson
On September 23, 2007 Zenph Studios and Sony BMG recorded a new Re-performance® of the entire "Piano Starts Here" album before a live audience at the original venue, the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. A Yamaha Disklavier Pro™ concert grand piano was placed on the same stage in the same spot where Tatum performed.
The original album includes nine virtuosic solos Tatum recorded live at The Shrine, along with Tatum's first four commercial recordings from 1933, issued on 78 rpm masters by the Brunswick label, including "Tiger Rag" – considered to be his signature performance.
The Tatum disc is a hybrid surround-sound SACD/CD disc, which plays on all traditional CD players and sounds magnificent on newer Super Audio (SACD) players. It also includes a binaural version of the re-performance that provides an immersive experience that, when listened to with headphones, replicates what Tatum would have heard while he sat in the piano bench.
Zenph assembled top producers and engineers for the Tatum project, including Steve Epstein, five-time Grammy® Award winner for "Producer of the Year," Richard King, a three-time Grammy® winner, and Gus Skinas, renowned for his expertise in high-resolution surround-sound recording. Piano voicer Marc Wienert is the main subject of the acclaimed book Grand Obsession by Perri Knize.
|1||Tea for Two|
|2||St. Louis Blues|
|6||Tatum Pole Boogie|
|7||Someone to Watch over Me|
|8||How High the Moon|
|10||Willow Weep for Me|
|11||The Kerry Dance|
|13||I Know That You Know|
July 28, 2008 Review: Art Tatum, Piano Starts Here - A Zenph Re-Performance, by Mark Keresman, JazzReview.com.
"If you buy only one jazz solo piano disc this (or any) year, make it Piano Starts Here."
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June 17, 2008 Review: Art Tatum, Piano Starts Here - A Zenph Re-Performance, by Tom Gibbs, Positive Feedback Online.
"This disc is nothing short of magnificent"
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June 16, 2008 A New Technology to Bring Old Jazz Recordings Back to Life, by Ted Gioia, jazz.com
"Even an old Tatum fan like me, who thought he knew everything that this Shrine concert had to tell me about the pianist, heard things I had never noticed before."
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June 15, 2008 Review: Art Tatum, Piano Starts Here, by Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News, 4/4 stars.
"so help me, this is a case where modern technology can give us what nothing else can — a recording of Tatum himself in performance with state-of-the-art sound instead of the tinny technology of pre-high fidelity recording... Remarkable."
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May/June 2008 Review: Art Tatum, Piano Starts Here, by John Aiello, The Electric Review.
"As you listen to this magical record that marries a piece of the past to our modern era, you are indeed hearing a transcendental performance"
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September 2008 Review: Art Tatum, Piano Starts Here - A Zenph Re-Performance, by John Swenson, Stereophile magazine.
"This is a crucially important release in musical history."
Illustrated children's book, Piano Starts Here - The Young Art Tatum by Robert Parker
Children’s illustrator and author Robert Andrew Parker (age 80) is a long-time fan of Art Tatum and his music, and was fortunate enough to see him perform live on 52nd Street in 1946. Parker actually did the cover artwork for Columbia's original LP of Tatum “Piano Starts Here.” Now, decades later, Parker’s “ Piano Starts Here art has morphed into an educational and literary tribute to Tatum. The book is a beautifully-crafted children’s book published by Random House. illustrating Tatum’s world and Tatum’s insight. In the world of Art Tatum, dark and light didn’t matter– what did matter were the smells, like corn bread baking in the over and the sounds, like the tinkle of piano keys. Parker’s book adds a unique visual into Tatum’s life; librarians and grade school teachers nationwide are recommending the book highly.