Featured Work

Rhapsody after Art

Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec

There’s no such thing as a wrong note.

Art Tatum (1909-1956)

When jazz great Oscar Peterson was still a boy, his father played him a recording of Art Tatum performing “Tiger Rag”. Once the young Peterson was finally persuaded that it was performed by a single person, he was so intimidated that he did not touch the piano for weeks. Many years later, Peterson is known to have said,

If you speak of pianists, the most complete pianist that we have known and possibly will know, from what I’ve heard to date, is Art Tatum. Musically speaking, he was and is my musical God, and I feel honored to remain one of his humbly devoted disciples.

Alcée Chriss III

Art Tatum’s piano improvisations are legendary. His recordings continue to inspire artists today and transcriptions of those works remain available for those who would learn something of this master’s stellar musicianship and creative genius first hand. At the core of Tatum’s musical language is an indefatigable and singular technique as a performer and a highly individual sense of harmony and rhythm as a composer. His music is intrinsically for the keyboard, piano specifically, and his output offers a ready example of what artistic achievements are possible when driven by a visionary and quintessential talent.

Firehead Editions is proud to offer the first of our featured works:  Rhapsody after Art, by another singular artist Alcée Chriss III. This spectacular work for organ is loosely based on an improvisation by Tatum and offers a new perspective on his music in a translation from the piano to the organ.

Clearly inspired by Tatum’s style and idiosyncrasy, Chriss’ score takes a departure from the source early on. While infusing the work with hints of Dupré, and Bach, and even Chopin, Chriss brings his own technical mastery of the organ to bear in a tour de force of expressive wonder.

Alcée performed this work on the 90 stop Casavant Frères organ at the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec on a program sponsored by the Canadian International Organ Competition. Below are some sample pages of his performing edition:


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