When Art Showed Up
This piece follows a story line. It is the story of a pianist who is reading a new piece for the first time and is suddenly visited by the presence of Art Tatum. As if “possessed” by the presence, this pianist goes through several mental and physical stages attempting to break free of this presence. But Tatum keeps returning, each time more intensely and aggressively until the pianist, now frustrated and scared, forcefully chases the presence away. Upon realizing she is now completely alone again, she goes back to the reading of this new piece… only to discover she actually misses the presence greatly, eventually evoking him back. Upon his return, the two are finally “one” and continue on to share a final and exciting duet.
In contrast was the New York premiere of “When Art Showed Up” by Ms. Assad, a young Brazilian composer. Before beginning the piece she learned that Ms. McDermott, a fan of Art Tatum, had always wanted to play jazz. According to Ms. Assad, her programmatic work evokes a pianist learning a new classical piece while possessed by the spirit of Tatum. The lively work, in theme and variations form, alternated between Baroque and Classical allusions and jazzy interludes of increasing energy played with panache by Ms. McDermott.