James Tatum

Jazz Concert Pianist, Composer,
Performer & Recording Artist



CD Review I- James Tatum
Back To the Roots

In his new CD. Back To The Roots, pianist, composer, and educator James Tatum explore the roots of jazz and his own musical roots in the music of the church of blues, and the compositions and piano styles of Scott Joplin. Jelly Roll Morton. Earl Hines, Duke Ellington and Thelonius Monk. But don't expect a period piece. This CD is inventive and compelling modern jazz.

As Director of Fine Arts in the Detroit school system. James Tatum found that young people did not know the jazz roots of the pop music and R&B that they listened to. He found that when properly exposed to jazz, they understood it and even liked it. In Back To The Roots, James presents what he considers the essence of jazz, a modern music that carries with it a lot of traditional from church music, the blues, and the music of the early jazz masters. This CD offers a varied program of solo piano, piano trio with Eddie Coburn on bass and Greg Williams on drums, and the Trio Plus with Joe Thurman and Gordon Camp added on sax and trumpet.

Jubilee opens the set with solo piano which contains an exotic mix of traditional and modern. Spiritualotta Jazz Suite is performed by the quintet, and is introduced with a plaintive cry on soprano sax over rolling drums. Shimmering cymbals and waves of piano chords before settling into an ostinato bass pattern for the solos. Ceremonial Dance has a primitive quality as a straight-eights feel gives way to a broken rhythm before settling into a stately and serene walk. To a Rose performed by the trio is given a dream-like quality by its gentle triple meter and emphasis on the whole tone scale, reminiscent of Duke Ellington. this is a beautiful tribute to beauty, whether in a flower or a woman.

Maruma has roots going back to New Orleans and Jelly Roll Morton, who first incorporated the "Spanish Tinge" in his music, yet you can hear McCoy Tyner in the muscular rhythmic chords and modal line. Evening Nocturne returns to solo piano in a reflective, ruminative mood in an arpeggiated style with subtle dissonnances, like a Chopin nocturne, only hip. Texas Roots features the quintet in a tribute to the state where James was born and received his early musical training and influences. The blues theme is stated over a boogie-like bass, and has the jump band feel that the hard-bop quintets drew from. The treatment here is reminiscent of the Horace Silver quintets or of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and The Blues March.