• IAJE Day 4 - An Art Tatum re-performance

    January 13, 2008. Posted by David Tallacksen.

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    All of the performances I've been to so far have been amplified - meaning even when the band has been playing acoustic instruments, there has been some sort of PA (public address) system in use to amplify the music. The house sound guys always did a bang-up job, but it was a nice to go to a performance of solo acoustic piano this afternoon. Plus, it was Art Tatum.

    I know what you're saying... Art Tatum died more than 50 years ago! That's true, but a company called Zenph Studios has figured out how to take a recording (usually of sub-optimal quality), extract the musical information from it and program a Yamaha Disklavier Pro (essentially a modern-day tweaked-out player piano) to recreate the performance. This gives them the chance to record - in much higher fidelity - the performance. They first did this with Glenn Gould's 1955 Bach Goldberg Variations. And now, they've taken on Art Tatum and his Piano Starts Here album. The recording comes out later this year, but they were happy to show it off.


    These guys are serious about re-creating the music on these records. You can read about it on their website - they use a piano voicer (in addition to the standard tuner) to get the piano sounding optimal for the type of music and the space. And another cool thing - the records also have tracks that put you literally in the head of the performer.

    Speaking of which, it's a bit odd to hear such an inspired performance with no human at the helm. But the sound and performance were great. I was looking forward to hearing their re-performance of Tatum playing The Kerry Dance, but the piano (or rather, its electronics) suffered the equivalent of a blue screen of death - it needed rebooting, and time was short.

    -David Tallacksen

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