Art Tatum, born October 13, 1909 in Toledo, Ohio, was an American jazz pianist. Tatum is widely recognized as the greatest jazz pianist of all time.
From infancy he suffered from cateracts (of disputed cause), which left him blind in one eye and with only limited vision in the other.
He was inspired and influenced by pianists James P. Johnson and Fats Waller, who were all practitioners of the stride piano style, and by the more ‘modern’ Earl Hines.
A major event in his rise to success was his participation at a ‘cutting contest’ in 1933 at Morgan’s bar in New York that included all the great stride pianists. Tatum performed his arrangements of ‘Tea for Two’ and ‘Tiger Rag’ in a performance that was considered to be the last word in stride piano. Tatum’s debut was historic because he outplayed the elite competition and heralded the demise of the stride era.
He influenced many jazz pianists, including Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson and Chick Corea.
Art Tatum passed away on November 5, 1956 in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 47.