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About this Piece

Art Tatum, like more than a few great organist-composers, suffered from seriously impaired vision or blindness from an early age. In Tatum’s case, early surgeries improved his vision but an assault in his early 20s left him almost totally blind. He was, nevertheless a breathtakingly virtuosic member of the school of stride pianists that included Fats Waller, Willie “The Lion” Smith, and James P. Johnson. Tatum recorded Vincent Youmans’s “Tea for Two” in 1932 but unfortunately it was not released for more than 20 years. By that time, Tatum’s career was in decline, but he managed to perform a famous set at the Hollywood Bowl in front of more than 19,000 people a few months before his death in 1956. —Thomas Neenan